Leith, Scotland — With the prospect of $:60 billion ($141 million) being invested by international companies in the North Sea oil fields within the next 15 years, this east coast port beside Edinburgh is looking forward to further investment in support facilities.
The money will also help Britain balance its international debts and ease the unemployment problem somewhat
A spokesman for Shell UK has said that projects planned by his company and other North Sea operators would double the amount of oil-related jobs by 1995. The vast "second stage" development program, he said, would include platforms, modules, power generators, pipelines, food, ships, helicopters, and communications systems. It will mean hiring the pilots, seamen, clerks, and deep sea divers to service the extended operations.
Scotland will gain most of the new 35,000 jobs directly created by the massive exploration and recovery plan. However, Scottish unemployment has reached almost 250,000. So the petroleum industry will provide only a limited number of fresh job opportunities for the large amount of Scots workers likely to be idle in the 1980s.
Fierce competition from overseas contractors may also lead to some North Sea oil equipment being ordered abroad. Nonetheless, Scots and UK-owned companies have gained much expertise in North Sea work and are in a strong position to obtain substantial engineering and service facility deals.
Britain produced just over 1,500,000 barrels of oil a day in August, making the country self-sufficient in petroleum for the second month in succession. The break-even target is well up to the time schedule predicted about two years ago by experts, but the current slump in UK production and mass layoffs has meant that Britain has been unable to use all of its own oil for the domestic market.
Politicians, industrialists, and trade union leaders are delighted, of course , about the balance of savings payments which North Sea oil is producing. But there is much concern about the relatively low return in job opportunities, even though the petroleum industry is recognized as a business traditionally requiring a limited amount of workers.
A minister in the Scottish Office of the thatcher administration has chided the Scottish National Party (SNP) fro demanding that an oil development fund of unemployed workers within the next 10 years.
While the Conservatives have refused to allocate North Sea oil taxes to Scotland, it may be significant that the Thatcher administration recently wrote off a state loan of $:9 million given to the Meriden motorcycle workers' cooperative. The Tories insist that the country's vast oil income must be wisely spent in paying off international debts and in intelligent investment at home.