This is not one story but a cluster of stories. Chic Brodie, South Scotland South MSP has sent us a Press Release which:
- draws attention to the new oil exploration licences granted in the Autumn of 2012 for the potentially rich and certainly difficult area west of Shetland – and for similar deep sea areas off the west coast, in Argyll waters;
- raises the issue of apparently successful exploration drilling in the 1980s, off Ayrshire in the mouth of the Firth of Clyde and at the northern end of the Irish Sea;
- shares the story that these encouraging test drills were capped and not developed on government [then Westminster] instructions;
- offers the hypothesis that this may have been because production wells in those sea areas would have been a hazard to submarines movements in and out of Faslane and the Holy Loch;
- publishes a letter he has written to current Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, with a Freedom of Information request to see Ministry of Defence;
- publishes a similar letter he has written to the US Secretary of Defence – since the submarines concerned were the American Polaris subs and the issue of risk to these craft from oil wells in these particular sea areas would certainly have been known to the American government;
- makes it known that he has lodged Freedom of Information requests to the MoD and to the local authorities concerned, one of which is Argyll and Bute – asking to see correspondence and any other material on this subject from the time it was going on.
There’s enough here to keep a team of researchers busy for some time – and what a collection of stories.
Chic Brodie says: ‘What it also highlights is there was a missed opportunity to start to develop these resources off the Coasts of Ayrshire and the South West of Scotland some 30 years ago. It is important that we find out why development was stopped and why there has been no progress since an apparent successful exploration in these waters in the early 1980s’.
Developing his argument, he says: ‘I hope that the Ministry of Defence and the US Department of Defense can shed some light on the reasons why these explorations were never followed up.
‘It would be very disappointing if it transpired that the already deeply unpopular stationing of weapons of mass destruction on Scottish soil had deterred economic development which would have brought considerable gains to Ayrshire, the Southwest and the islands of Scotland.’
The recent exploration licences granted in the Autumn of 2012 in the UK’s 27th licensing round and to which Mr Brodie refers, are to the ambitious Parkmead company, awarded one large licence which includes ten blocks in the frontier Rockall Trough area – west of Tiree, Coll and Colonsay; and another 15 blocks elsewhere in UK waters during the same round.
Tom Cross, Executive Chairman of Parkmead, has said of the licence awards: ‘We are delighted with these extensive new licence awards which will significantly increase our oil and gas operations on the UKCS.
‘These awards complete an exceptional year for Parkmead, in which we have secured first production for the Group in the Netherlands and also expanded our asset base in the UK North Sea through the acquisition of DEO Petroleum plc.’
Chic Brodie says: ‘Further confirmation of these ‘riches’ off our coast was confirmed in a report produced for Dumfries and Galloway in 1999: Oil and Gas –the Irish Sea.
‘That report highlighted that the South West of Scotland is ideally placed to benefit from new discoveries. Prestwick and Glasgow Airports could be ideal transport hubs in the supply chain, just as would be the engineering expertise inherent in that part of Scotland.’
This is one of the most interesting matters for today – not only might we be looking at oil production in the deep waters west of the most far flung islands of Argyll; but we have a possible political whodunnit dating to the early 1980s to play with.
We are asking Chic Brodie to keep us posted on developments as he pursues this matter; and will add later to the copies of the material he sent us, not all of which came through.
Below is the first page [the second was missing] of Mr Brodie’s letter to Philip Hammond MP, UK Defence Secretary; and the letter he has written to the CEO of the three local authorities affected by the possible stop down of oil exploration where in the 1980s.