Fool's Gold: Story of North Sea Oil Paperback – 2 Nov 1995
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Top customer reviews
Harvie later served as an SNP MSP and his political leanings show through in his criticisms of various Labour and Tory governments. However, this is far from a nationalist tract. It is no rant about Scotland's oil. Harvie fully justifies his claims that governing politicians had neither the competence nor the inclination to manage the development and production of the oil effectively. Labour's Tony Benn and, to a lesser extent his Tory counterpart, David Howells emerge with some credit as Energy Secretaries with some grasp of what they were trying to do.
For the most part, however, it is a dispiriting story of politicians who lacked any vision of how North Sea oil could provide any lasting benefit to Britain. Indeed, there was astonishingly little sign that they saw any need for vision. Long term investment in infrastructure? Restructuring British industry? Preventing an oil fuelled exchange rate destroying British manufacturing? Adopting a long term energy policy for the UK? Such possibilities were glibly dismissed as irrelevant. The real priorities were tax cuts, and an untramelled free market in which the oil majors could crack on with it, with the minimum of government oversight or union involvement. The tragic, avoidable consequence was Piper Alpha, a disaster that had it roots in political attitudes towards oil production, but for no politicians were ever held accountable.
Since Piper Alpha, and since the issue of this book, improvements have been made to safety and the conditions of offshore work. However, the short termism, the lack of interest in long term vision, which was a feature of the first three decades of North Sea oil have persisted, and this book goes a long way to explaining the mindset that led to this.
Throughout the tale the awkward and embarrassing contrast is the competent and thoughtful management that Norway brought to the management of their windfall. Harvie's writing style is occasionally somewhat laboured and can prove a slight distraction, but that is a minor criticism. This is an important and engrossing book that addresses a dreadful failure of the British political class.
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