Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond calls Westminster MPs 'thieves' over North Sea oil and gas reserves

He added he was 'ready' for a debate with Prime Minister David Cameron

First Minister Alex Salmond has called Westminster MPs “thieves” and pledged to make North Sea oil and gas work better for Scottish communities if the country becomes independent

Mr Salmond addressed a gathering in Portlethen, Aberdeenshire, with Prime Minister David Cameron and his Cabinet just a few miles away on their own visit to the north east.

The two Cabinets' close proximity was a “wasted opportunity” to stage a public debate between the First Minister and Prime Minister, Mr Salmond said.

He described the Westminster Government's visit, the first time a UK Cabinet has visited north east Scotland since David Lloyd George's team met in 1921, as a potential “portent” of his hopes for an independent Scotland.

“If at any point David Cameron walks in, I am available for this debate,” he said.

“I'm here, I'm ready, I'm willing. Let's take the opportunity to exploit this geographical coincidence in order to pursue the debate that so many people in Scotland want to see.

”This is the 12th Scottish Cabinet meeting in the North of Scotland, but this is only the second time in history that the UK Cabinet has met in the north of Scotland.

“The UK Cabinet has come to Aberdeen but they're not going to have any public discussion or access.

"It does seem a wasted opportunity, not just for the First Minister and the Prime Minister to debate, but to have people from this area question the UK Cabinet over its range of responsibilities."

Read more: Scottish independence: Warnings over pound ‘swaying undecided voters’ as poll shows strong lead for 'No' vote

Mr Salmond welcomed the report by Sir Ian Wood which recommended a new energy regulator to be based in the north east.

"I've got some form in oil and gas as I was an energy economist before I fell among thieves, by which I mean the House of Commons and not the Scottish Parliament or the Scottish Government," Mr Salmond, a former Westminster MP, said.

"We are told today that North Sea oil and gas is better handled by a big country like Britain as opposed to a small country like Scotland.

"That's a very interesting concept for people in this part of the country, who can glance across the North Sea to Norway, a country smaller than Scotland but a country which by every observation has handled its oil and gas resources better than the stewardship of Westminster.

“I don't mean better just for the companies earning profits and investment, that's important, and not even just for the workforce terms, conditions and safety, which is hugely important.

I mean handling the oil and gas resource for the community as a whole as Norway has accumulated much of its revenues for a futures fund for future generations.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister David Cameron toured a BP installation 150 miles (240km) east of Aberdeen ahead of a Cabinet meeting in the city on Monday afternoon, and argued that Scotland alone would find it harder to invest and deal with oil market volatility.

PA

Read more: It is not bullying to show what Scottish independence means
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