Sadly, I'm old enough to recall the last independence vote conducted in the 1970s. Back then, Scotland was a very different country and where many worked in the coal mining industry and the prospect of North Sea Oil was a 'pipe dream' if you'll forgive the pun. On that occasion. 1.2 million Scots said 'yes' to the proposal while 1.1 million said 'no' with the total vote amounting to less than 64% and therefore deemed insufficient to carry the plan forward. 1979 was also the year in which Margaret Thatcher started her term as the longest serving Prime Minister of the 20th century and whom was also the luckiest with the first of the North Sea Oil revenues rushing into Treasury coffers. The Falklands War of 1982 was a close encounter with disaster with troops running low on ammunition during the final hours and where Australia had been promised purchase of 'HMS Invincible' just weeks beforehand. Her most popular legacy was the sale of 'council housing' at a fraction of their value but where monies collected from these sales were directed to central rather than regional government. The current day shortage of affordable housing began from that period onwards.
Jumping forward some thirty-five years later, the new vote for Scottish Independence started in a lacklustre fashion and continued that that way throughout the campaigns. As the predicted outcome narrowed sharply towards the end, the entire process began to mirror that of the independence vote for Quebec conducted in Canada during 1995 and where the politicians began to recognise how the gap was narrowing and prompting the Canadian Premier to deliver an empassioned plea just days before the vote. David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister in 2014, did likewise.
Like many Scots, I watched the televised debates between Alistair Darling and Alex Salmon but neither debate adequately furnished what the Scottish people were supposed to be voting for! What benefits of being an independant country would actually mean to ordinary people was never explained or answered.
On the day of polling, Scots were told that North Sea Oil revenues would last for just two decades yet the most recent estimates have jumped to a century. A close relative of mine works in the oil production industry and he's openly scathing at the notion of the twenty years estimate. The basic problem, he assures me, is that of extraction costs when compared to other parts of the World and at a time when crude oil prices are falling by significant levels. This makes it harder for some oil producers to acheive a breakeven level in their accounts and where North Sea Oil appears expensive in the global marketplace.
North Sea Oil was supposed to make us wealthy according to the pro-independence lobby but in reality and in the months following the Scottish Independence vote, we can look back and say that we 'dodged the bullet' as many oil rigs discard their workforce and are preparing for 'cold storage mothballing' of the facilities with no restoration date foreseen in the future.
What that means in totally pragmatic terms is that; even if oil prices rose back to their former levels and North Sea Oil became viable in the future then it might take in excess of five years before extraction and production could be expected from this source.
North Sea Gas production also goes hand in hand with the oil industry and the Shetland Isles' new gas turbine power station is the outcome of exploration licenses granted many years ago when the technology to reach such such reserves was absent. Elsewhere in Scotland, the long-term decision to abandon nuclear power stations matches that of some other countries and most notably Germany; but unlike Germany, Scotland doesn't have the proximity of buying electric power from Ukrainian neighbours still willing to employ nuclear fuel for the generation of electricity. In England, the Hinkley Point Point Nuclear Power Station Project awarded to the French consortium to build it is well behind schedule since the main contractor is dependent on oil prices as a source of its main revenue and is unable to afford such investment costs at this time of writing in 2016. Buying electric power from England may not be possible in the forseeable future since they already seem to be facing issues of 'brownouts' already within their 'energy economy'. At best, the Scottish government has slowly awakened to the probability that a plethora of 'ugly bird killing' windmills, tidal generators and hydro-electric dams might not be enough to keep the lights burning reliably during the next decade. Like its design counterpart, Haysham 2 in England, Torness nuclear power station was one of the last 'second generation' advanced gas reactors 'brought onstream' during 1988 and where the initial decommissioning dates were roughly similar at around 2024 but it has now been decided that Torness should be maintained in service until 2030 and especially in the wake of the large coal fired power stations at Cockensie in Lothian and Longannet in Fife without any solid plans in place for their replacement.
Longannet. the second largest coal burning power station in Europe was closed on March 31st 2016 and some eight years ahead of its original closure date in 2024. By then, the Cockensie power station had already been reduced to rubble and clearance space leaving Longannet as Scotland's worst polluting facility yet modified many times with failed plans to involve subterranean carbon capture technologies and modifications to permit the incineration of bio-mass, slurry and fuels other than coal. Plans to build cleaner 'gas fired' power stations from North Sea Gas have been abandoned because the cost of connection to the National Grid have become deemed as prohibative. Like the UK as a whole, it seems likely that 'power cuts' may become increasingly likely within the next decade unless the question of reliable energy supply is addressed in earnest. We're closer to the brink than many might realise!
In closing, successive governments have been astoundingly lucky in that many household appliances currently consume far less electricity and power than their equivilents of fifty years ago. By example, the highly popular Thorn 1500 hybrid chassis employed in Ferguson, Ultra, HMV, Baird, DER, Vista-Vision many other brands during the early 1970s used close to two hundred watts or more to produce a monchrome televisual display and employed five thermionic valves. Early versions of colour televisions consumed twice that figure but as time has progressed, even the humble electric light bulb as designed by Thomas Alva Edison to great accolade in the past, has given way to to a multitude of new 'power saving' technologies and requiring far less power consumption to operate them. Demand has fallen and there is less need for large scale electrical power generation but the need still exists albeit in terms of a smaller overall capacity. In Scotland, there are hundreds of power generating facilities at present and the task of uniting these into a coherant energy policy is technically possible yet lacking a fundamental core capable of maintaining supplies during times of adverse circumstances. One hopes and prays that work is being progressed on that front since the alternative presents challenges for all of us in the future.