George Osborne delivered his budget Wednesday 18 March 2015. There have been major calls from the Oil industry for tax cuts to help the industry survive. Production has been going down year on year as investment has risen considerably in an effort to extract oil which is harder to get. Throw the American shale gas boom into the equation and along with the Saudi decision not to reduce their output and suddenly the North East of Scotland is faced with a low oil price with reducing production. The industry has called for tax cuts so this is what George Osborne has now delivered, £1.6billion of tax cuts to be precise.
Oil industry job losses in Aberdeen have already been significant. As a country we all want successful industry and any reasonable fiscal assistance from George Osborne can be welcomed if it is to help to prevent further job losses. But let’s not forget about health and safety. As people lose their jobs and as margins become tighter it is often the way that health and safety is the first thing that is forgotten by companies intent on turning the biggest profit.
Not long after oil was discovered in the North Sea in 1965, BP’s jack-up drilling rig, the Sea Gem capsized killing 13 people. Health and safety was immediately an issue and it has remained so for the last 50 years. Fast forward to 1988 when 167 people were killed during several explosions on the Piper Alpha platform. Lord Cullen produced his report into offshore health and safety making over a hundred recommendations for changes. These changes put health and safety to the fore.
In recent years after offshore disasters have occurred, authorities have been quick to distance themselves from having a similar Cullen type inquiry. Despite multiple fatalities in a series of helicopter accidents and the recent Transport Select Committee recommending a full Inquiry, the Westminster government rejected such an inquiry taking place leaving the industry, once again, to look after its own affairs. Self-regulation can be a dangerous business, we all found out during the banking crisis! Let’s all hope that this budget announcement is favourable to the offshore oil and gas industry which will benefit Scotland and its workers. But, let’s not forget the victims of accidents and their families and the need for health and safety to be up there with ‘profit’ as offshore industry’s top priority.