North Sea oil

In the film There Will Be Blood, Daniel Plainview, a monomaniacal oilman played by Daniel Day-Lewis, tries to lowball the Sunday family, whose hydrocarbon-rich land he covets, by claiming that he wants their acreage for quail-hunting. But Eli Sunday knows Plainview’s real intentions. He asks for $5,000, ostensibly to invest in his evangelical church. Many years later, Eli, who never received the money from Plainview, tracks the multi-millionaire oilman down in his Xanadu. Eli complains of past grievances and brings a quixotic plan for future exploration of the Sunday land.

I won’t spoil the ending but there is something – an admittedly tenuous something – of the Eli Sunday in the Scottish National party’s arguments about North Sea oil and gas. Alex Salmond’s party is right to be critical of how opportunities were wasted but it is too sanguine about what oil and gas would offer an independent Scotland. Read more

In 1972, the Scottish National party launched a campaign poster featuring a photograph of a forlorn old lady beneath the slogan: “It’s her oil”. Four decades and 3.5bn tonnes of North Sea crude oil production later, Scotland is preparing for a vote next year on whether it should become independent for the first time since 1707. The SNP’s case is about more than oil – but it is central. Those after analysis that goes beyond tendentious snaps of women in their dotage should read Gavin McCrone’s guide to the economics of the referendum. Read more