Developing our Industry or Developing Nation Status – 11 January 2024


Debate on the potential, if not likely, closure of Grangemouth Refinery has been muted or sanguine at best. Of course, it’s not yet confirmed but the risk is great, and the consequences are huge. At its heart is whether Scotland wishes to develop its industrial base, even one transitioning from carbon, or whether it is to be left akin to Developing Nation status. Accordingly, you’d have thought there would be greater interest and indeed public clamour. 

For if it closes Scotland will be an oil producing nation and yet without refinery capacity. No other nation in the world’s top 25 oil producers, and Scotland sits along with the UK at number 21, is devoid of such a core aspect of oil production. Norway for example has 2 refineries. Oil producing nations without refinery capacity are the likes of the Republic of Congo at 31st or Trinidad and Tobago at 50th and both producing significantly less oil than Scotland.

Our raw product will be taken from us, and the refined product will be sold back to us, but at a premium to be paid by both nation and citizens. “Added value” they call it, but it’s us who’ll have to pay it, even though the resource is off our shores. Yet that will be Scotland’s fate if Grangemouth Refinery closes.

The refinery’s vital for our developed economy supplying 70% of Scottish filling stations and aviation fuel for Scottish airports. These aspects are essential for our modern society, not just our economy. Energy security’s threatened along with the job losses at the site and in industries which cluster around it. They will be considerable, and the reverberations will span the country. 

Scotland was told in the referendum that the oil was all but gone and it would even be a millstone to an independent Nation. Now, miraculously it’s been rediscovered and’s to be at the heart of the UKs economic revival. The resource from existing fields is to be maxed out and new ones like Rosebank developed. How can it then be that not one drop will be refined in Scotland.

There’s an existing absurdity in that the Forties field where the pipeline lands at Cruden Bay and heads onto Grangemouth isn’t refined there either. That needs to change. As does the absurdity of the Rosebank field, to be developed by the Norwegian State Energy company, being shipped across the seas to be refined in another nation. That’s simply adding insult to injury.  

There’s an absurdity as well as significant environmental damage given the extent of the carbon footprint of the maritime sector. There big ships spew out fumes and transition to battery or other fuels is a long way away.

Sunak’s right that there’s logic in using our own remaining oil supplies as we seek to transition to a fossil-free future. It can’t be done overnight, and plastics, never mind fuel are needed to allow that change to happen. But shipping it around the globe for refining undermines that.

Long term the Grangemouth refinery must look to biofuels and a commitment to that not closure’s what’s required. In the interim Scotland’s oil must be refined in Scotland’s refinery. It’s about time the Forties Field was refined where it’s piped to and that must apply to other fields.