'We want Scotland to stay in the UK': Shell boss Ben van Beurden steps into Scottish referendum debate

Van Beurden highlighted the importance of "stability and certainty" in Scotland

City Staff
Thursday 06 March 2014 10:36

Oil giant Shell wants Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom, its chief executive has said.

Ben van Beurden is said to have highlighted the importance of "stability and certainty" as he set out why the firm wanted Scotland to continue in the UK and for the UK to remain in the European Union.

His remarks, at the company's annual reception in London, make him the latest leading figure from the business world to intervene in the debate over Scotland's future.

Voters north of the border will decide if the country remains in UK in a referendum on September 18.

Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed putting the UK's continued membership of the EU to the electorate in an in/out referendum if the Tories win the 2015 general election.

The BBC reported Mr van Beurden said: "We're used to operating in uncertain political and economic environments. But, given a choice, we want to know as accurately as possible what investment conditions will look like 10 or 20 years from now.

"That's the chief reason we're in favour of the UK maintaining its long-established place at the heart of the European Union: it provides greater investment stability and certainty."

The oil company boss is said to have added: "It's for similar reasons that we'd like to see Scotland remain part of the United Kingdom.

"Shell has a long history of involvement in the North Sea - and therefore in Scotland - and we continue to invest more than a billion pounds there every year."

His remarks come after BP chief executive Bob Dudley claimed there were "quite big uncertainties" over issues such as currency, European links and tax regimes if Scotland was to vote for independence.

But last week Willie Walsh, the boss of British Airways' parent company, said a Yes vote in September could be a "positive development".

Mr Walsh, the chief executive of International Airlines Group (IAG), said he suspected that could lead to the Scottish Government abolishing air passenger duty, so independence "might be marginally positive".

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said it agreed "with Shell that the real risk facing the oil and gas sector is the proposed in/out referendum on EU membership, which risks taking Scotland out of Europe with all the consequences for jobs, investment and prosperity that would entail".

She added: "We would be happy to meet with Shell to discuss the future of the oil and gas industry in an independent Scotland."

The spokeswoman said Shell UK chairman Ed Daniels, had previously "acknowledged the independence debate is a matter for the Scottish people" and also said a recent Oil and Gas People poll showed that 70 per cent of oil workers planned to vote for independence.

She continued: "Industry has significant confidence in the opportunities presented in the North Sea. Combined, operators including Shell have around £100 billion worth of investment planned for the North Sea. And with more than half of oil and gas reserves by value still to be extracted, that investment will continue after independence.

"Shell is a company which already operates in more than 40 independent countries around the globe, and an independent Scotland with full control of its economy and huge resources will offer an attractive and stable environment for businesses in the offshore and other sectors."

Additional reporting by agencies

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