Published On: Thu, Mar 6th, 2014

Scottish Independence: Shell Boss Wants Scotland To ‘Remain In UK’

The chief executive of the oil company Shell has said he would like Scotland to “remain part of the UK”.Addressing the company’s annual reception in London on Wednesday, Ben van Beurden said he valued the “continuity and stability” of the UK.

Shell boss wants Scotland

He said the company had reached this view for the same reasons it supported the UK staying “inside the EU”.

The Scottish government said an EU referendum was the “real risk” facing the oil and gas sector.

Last week, Shell hosted the UK cabinet at its headquarters in Aberdeen.

At the time, the chairman of Shell UK, Ed Daniels, said the independence debate was “a matter for Scottish people” and that “it would be wrong” for Shell to intervene.

Mr van Beurden’s view on independence came on the day Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays both cited the Scottish independence referendum as a potential risk to their businesses.

In their annual reports, the banks listed the referendum alongside a raft of other perceived risks from the UK, Europe and across the world.

In his speech, Mr van Beurden said one of the “many things” the company valued about the UK was the “continuity and stability” it offered.

He added: “Yes, 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.

“But, as a global business with feet planted firmly on both sides of the Channel, we also believe that the UK’s national interests are best served by a close relationship with Europe.

“The continent faces medium-term challenges – not least relating to its economic competitiveness. But we believe those challenges are best tackled – to the benefit of all – with the UK’s voice loudly expressed and loudly heard inside the EU.

“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.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said: “The Scottish government agree 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.

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

“As Ed Daniels, chairman of Shell UK has acknowledged, the independence debate is a matter for the Scottish people. A recent Oil and Gas People poll showed that in fact, 70% of oil workers planned to vote for independence.

“Industry has significant confidence in the opportunities presented in the North Sea. Combined, operators, including Shell, have around £100bn 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.”

Mr van Beurden’s comments come after BP’s chief executive, Bob Dudley, said he personally believed Britain “ought to stay together”.

Speaking in response to Mr Dudley’s remarks, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said he was “entitled to his personal opinion” but added that many other chief executives were firmly in favour of independence.

Interviewed on BBC Breakfast last month, BA group chief executive Willie Walsh said he thought Scottish independence would be a “positive development” for the company as he believed a Scottish government would abolish air passenger duty.