Troubled waters : the impact of North Sea oil in British politics, 1964-1979
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This thesis aims to explore the reactions of politicians to the discovery and development of North Sea oil in the United Kingdom between 1964 and 1979. In doing so, it attempts to consider why North Sea oil has largely been absent from existing narratives of post-war British history. It considers the politics of North Sea oil within the wider context of this period, looking at how it interacted with issues of economic modernisation, the relationship between the elected government and the trade unions, and the role of the state in the economy. Given the link between North Sea oil and the rise of the Scottish National Party in the early 1970s, it pays special attention to its association with constitutional change and the debate around Scottish devolution during this period. It presents an argument that North Sea oil proved too complex for both Labour and Conservative governments to fully incorporate into their agendas. For the 1964-70 and 1974-79 Labour governments, bringing oil into state ownership raised uncomfortable questions about potential retaliation by overseas governments regarding the operations of British firms such as BP. Likewise, for the 1970-74 Conservative government, and the government of Margaret Thatcher elected in 1979, keeping the British state out of the oil industry did not negate the fact that the government had to liaise with foreign governments who were heavily involved in their own oil industries. It also presents an argument that while the SNP’s rhetoric around North Sea oil was beneficial to the party during the early 1970s, there were a number of contradictions in the party’s oil policy that made it practically unfeasible. Ultimately, the party’s prioritisation of constitutional change over securing control of oil revenues after 1974 meant that the link between oil and constitutional change diminished during the later 1970s.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Internationalhttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Embargo Date: 2027-02-09
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Restricted until 9th February 2027
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