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UK Wide Cooperation Ensures “Best Is Yet To Come” In North Sea

The future of the Scotland’s vital North Sea industry can be supported by the UK’s “collective strength and resource”, a new report by a leading energy expert concludes today.  

Written by Nick Butler, the founding chair of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, the report – entitled “Co-Op 26: how cooperation can spur Scotland’s green revolution” – argues that “the best is yet to come” for Scotland’s energy sector if it can seize huge new opportunities and transition from oil and gas to renewables.  

It argues that Scotland’s prospects are best achieved by remaining an active and influential player within the UK. “As part of the UK Scotland has a voice. Alone, that voice would carry no weight,” he says.

He concludes: “The necessary transformation in the energy market in UK and across the world will be rich in jobs. For Scotland there is the opportunity of playing a major role in creating the technical and industrial base which will support that transformation. If that opportunity can be grasped, however good the last half century has been, the best is yet to come.” 

A leading energy expert, who has advised both Norway’s state energy company and the UK Government, Mr Butler is a regular contributor to the Financial Times on energy issues, having spent nearly three decades working for BP.

The paper focusses on several of the key areas for potential growth in the new “green market” economy. 

In the report, Mr Butler says there is “no reason” why Scotland and the UK cannot become a global leader in decommissioning work, as rigs are dismantled over the coming years. He argues that with development to the UK grid, Scotland could export more renewable electricity to the wider UK market, and to Europe via a new North Sea grid.  The report also concludes that Scotland is “well placed” to take advantage of the development of hydrogen and carbon capture into the 2030s. 

The report concludes that all these measures are best achieved by being part of a wider pan-UK plan. On the potential impact of independence, he adds: “At a time when public policy is understandably focused on maximising employment an unhappy divorce is likely to encourage any Government in London to focus its own spending and investment on its own citizens. The trade in electricity for instance from Scotland to England and the rest of the UK could easily be substituted by other sources.” 

On the forthcoming COP 26 conference in Glasgow, he adds: “For Scotland, COP26 offer the chance not just to provide hotel rooms and hospitality but also long-term leadership. Such steps of course can only be taken if Scotland is part of the United Kingdom with full access to Britain’s collective strengths and resources. To those who say the UK Government’s policies are too vague and inadequate the answer to lead the process of developing them, providing answers and ideas.”

Professor Jim Gallagher, chairman of Our Scottish Future said: “Nick Butler is an acknowledged energy expert and, in this paper, he shows how Scotland can leverage its membership of the UK to accelerate the essential transition to green energy and create jobs when doing so.  A new kind of North Sea revolution.” 



Nick Butler is a Visiting Professor at King’s College London and the founding Chairman of the Kings Policy Institute. He chairs Promus Associates, The Sure Chill Company and Ridgeway Information Ltd. From 2007 to 2009 he was Chairman of the Cambridge Centre for Energy Studies. He was a special adviser to the former British prime minister Gordon Brown from 2009 to 2010. He served as a non executive Director of Cambridge Econometrics from 2010 to 2018. He was appointed in 2018 to the expert panel of advisers for The Faraday Institution, which works on the development of batteries and energy storage. Having served as a Member of the Strategic Advisory Council of the Norwegian state company Equinor (formerly Statoil) he is currently editor of the Energy Agenda for the Norwegian based energy organisation ONS. 

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