Speaking at his party’s conference, the SNP’s Callum McCaig said that the slump in the price of oil and gas has made it harder to win support for Scottish independence.
In 2014, the SNP put oil front and centre when making the case for independence, forecasting Scottish sector revenues of over £19 billion over 2016-18.
But official figures, following the collapse in the value of oil to under $35 a barrel, now predict oil revenues of just £4.6 billion over the next five years.
The Aberdeen South MP said, “The change in the oil price doesn’t strengthen the case. It does make it, in some ways, a harder sell.”
McCaig argued that removing oil and gas from the economic case for independence might make sense.
His statement, in line with the Conservatives and Labour, is likely to raise eyebrows amongst the SNP leadership as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is still trying to raise strong national support for a second referendum.
Scottish Conservative energy spokesman Alexander Burnett said: “It is right that the SNP acknowledge that the slump in oil revenues damages the case for independence, but the fact is that the economic argument was lost even with $100 oil.
“The subsequent collapse in revenues would have been disastrous for an independent Scotland had we voted Yes in 2014. We would have been faced with massive cuts to public spending, increased taxes and higher borrowing.”
And attracting the investment needed to secure the oil sector’s future would be “much, much harder” amid the “great uncertainty” caused by any fresh referendum, said Labour’s Jenny Laing, leader of Aberdeen City Council.