The economic case for independence was already an Achilles heel for Scotland’s nationalist movement, as was seen in the damaging arguments over the future currency for an independent Scotland (they didn’t want the euro, and the Brits wouldn’t help them keep the pound). However the strongest economic argument for Scottish independence involved oil revenues from the North Sea, and the SNP based much of its case on Scotland being able to sell its North Sea oil for $100 per barrel. With Brent crude hovering just above $70 per barrel, that math is looking a lot fuzzier. The Guardian reports:
Alex Salmond, the former Scottish first minister, argued that $24tn (£15tn) worth of oil and gas was still waiting to be extracted, but these figures were premised on a crude price of $100 a barrel. An oil price substantially below that would complicate the SNP’s costings for an independent Scotland, which would be looking to the North Sea for a sizeable contribution in tax and jobs.
Moreover, cheaper global prices could scare away oil companies already wary of investing in expensive North Sea projects. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP, said in an interview today that she expects crude to rebound back to $100 per barrel levels sometime next year, but that may be wishful thinking. In the short to medium term, as U.S. production continues to pour into world markets and growth remains slack in Europe and slowing in China, a return to triple digit crude prices seems unlikely.