Sep 232016
 

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Tuesday 26th August 2014, Aberdeen, Scotland. Hall Morrice Corporate Portraits (Photo: Ross Johnston / Newsline Scotland)

Shonagh Fraser, partner at Hall Morrice, which has been shortlisted for two categories in the Scotland’s Best Employer Awards.

Aberdeen-based accountancy firm Hall Morrice has been shortlisted for two separate accolades in a high profile awards scheme aimed at recognising the nation’s top employers.

The independent firm, which has a team of 50 staff, has been named as a finalist in the youth investment and training and development categories of the Scotland’s Best Employer Awards.

In addition to having their award applications scrutinised by a panel of HR experts, the entry process included an independently managed survey being conducted with staff.

They were required to give feedback to a number of survey questions covering everything on their thoughts on opportunities for career development within the firm to whether they felt invested in as individuals.

Hall Morrice partner Shonagh Fraser (pictured), who has a responsibility for HR, says the firm is honoured to have made the shortlist.

She adds,

“What makes this particularly special is that it is not just the senior managers putting forward an entry: we have been shortlisted because of the endorsement that we have received from our own staff.

“We are a mid-tier firm in general practice, and we believe that this sets us apart from other accountancy firms. We are small enough that we can focus closely on individual career development to ensure staff have the opportunity to move in the direction they want, but large enough that we can offer experience of the whole range of accountancy disciplines and services.

“The jobs market in the north-east has traditionally been very competitive for employers, as is the graduate market. We are therefore thrilled to have been shortlisted for Scotland’s Best Employer Awards as it underlines what we all believe – that Hall Morrice is a fantastic place to work.”

Hall Morrice has a long and proven track record as a training firm, and puts young people at the heart of its own growth strategy. Last year it took on a record number of new graduates, and around 30% of its team is aged under 24.

It has developed its own bespoke training pathway for young people studying towards Chartered Accountant status which offers a more seamless learning experience for graduates. This allows for all technical learning to be completed within the first 15 months, and leads to better support for students during their studies.

This innovative brand of training is producing improved exam results, with more students passing their exams at the first attempt.

But training does not stop with graduates: all members of staff have their own individual progression plan which is drawn up the moment they join the firm. Hall Morrice is committed to promoting internally and where no vacancy exists, new roles are created to ensure talent is retained.

Scotland’s Best Employer Awards are run by Scottish Business Insider and aim to recognise companies and organisations that put employees at the heart of their business, promoting their development, health and wellbeing.

The awards ceremony takes place in the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow on October 5, where the winners will be announced.

Founded in 1976, Hall Morrice celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. It is one of Scotland’s leading independent firms of chartered accountants and has offices in Aberdeen and Fraserburgh. Based at 6 and 7 Queens Terrace in Aberdeen, Hall Morrice can be contacted on 01224 647394 or at accounts@hallmorrice.co.uk

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Aug 112016
 

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

hm-new-recruits-2016

Michael Smith, Catherine Freeman, Aaron Williams, Toni Parker, Ashleigh Welsh, Irene Walker, Maria Marcas and Calum Mathers have all recently joined Hall Morrice.

An Aberdeen-based accountancy firm has announced the appointment of eight new members of staff. Following the creation of a new business development role earlier this year, Hall Morrice has further strengthened its team across its various departments in order to continue to provide exemplary service to clients operating in a wide range of industry sectors notwithstanding the current challenging economic backdrop affecting many.

Aaron Williams has joined Hall Morrice from KPMG UK, and will take up the role of audit and accounts manager, working with clients in a variety of sectors including oil and gas, ICT, retail, and property.

Aaron says,

“Hall Morrice has an excellent reputation in the north east of Scotland, so I welcomed the opportunity to join the team. Working across such a varied portfolio is a challenge, but one that I am looking forward to embracing. I look forward to working with the Hall Morrice team to continue providing the high level of service that our clients expect.”

The firm’s payroll team has been expanded in recent months, with the addition of Irene Walker and Maria Marcus. Additionally, CA students Ashleigh Welsh, Catherine Freeman and Michael Smith took on new roles within the firm last month, and were joined by RGU placement students Calum Mathers and Toni Parker.

The recruitment news sees the firm strengthening its operations at all levels, and follows an impressive year for Hall Morrice which saw a large intake of students taking on roles in 2015 and the appointment of Mike Innes to the newly-created role of business development director this spring.

Shonagh Fraser, partner at Hall Morrice, says,

“Undoubtedly times are tough for many businesses in Aberdeen, however we believe in a focus on the future. The economic climate will ease over time, and we want to be in the strongest position we can when it does.

“We firmly believe in developing and nurturing new talent, and we have been delighted to see so many students coming into the firm over the last month. By investing in young people, we are cementing the future of our industry for years to come.

“Aaron is an important addition to the managerial team, and we are confident that his leadership will help guide our new recruits and current staff over the years to come.”

Founded in 1976, Hall Morrice celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and is one of Scotland’s leading independent firms of chartered accountants with has offices in Aberdeen and Fraserburgh. Based at 6 and 7 Queens Terrace in Aberdeen, Hall Morrice can be contacted on 01224 647394 or at accounts@hallmorrice.co.uk

Aug 042016
 

With thanks to Kenneth Hutchison, Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Eilidh Whiteford.

Eilidh-Whiteford-Parliament2Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has backed a Chartered Trading Standards Institute campaign against scammers who prey on vulnerable customers.

Scam Awareness Month has been running over the summer to highlight different techniques used by unscrupulous criminals to part members of the public with their money.

Thousands of people across the UK every year fall victim to scams, with detriment estimated at £5-10 billion annually and growing.

The problem is amplified by the fact that only 5% of victims report such frauds to the authorities. Many suffer in silence, embarrassed at having been scammed.

The theme this year is ‘listening to your gut feeling’. Trading Standards are calling on consumers to act on their initial caution and suspicion that often comes when they get an unexpected phone call, email, mailing or knock at the door.

Dr Whiteford said:

“I am pleased to support what is a hugely important campaign to raise awareness of how these criminals operate. Whether it’s by e-mail, telephone or letter, everyone should be aware that not everyone who contacts you has your best interests at heart.

“The message is a simple one. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Never trust anyone who asks for your passwords or PIN. And if you have any doubts whatsoever about who you’re dealing with, don’t hesitate to leave the conversation.

“Scammers utilise email, telephone, and letter and can even turn up on your doorstep. Listen to your gut feeling, and if you have any doubts whatsoever, don’t proceed with the transaction – whatever it may be.”

For more information about Scam Awareness Month, visit http://www.tradingstandards.uk/events/ScamsAwarenessMonth2016.cfm

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Jul 292016
 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWith thanks to Kenneth Hutchison,
Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Eilidh Whiteford.

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has given her wholehearted backing to NFU Scotland and the Press and Journal’s campaign to ensure the ongoing viability of the north-east dairy industry.

Adding her name to the list of supporters, Dr Whiteford stressed the need for a vibrant dairy sector in the north-east, and urged shoppers to buy local milk, and to lobby supermarkets to support local farmers.

Speaking after a meeting with NFUS representatives and farmers at new Deer Show, Dr Whiteford said:

“The closure of the Muller plant has undoubtedly been a blow to our north-east dairy farmers, and it’s difficult to overstate the challenges the industry faces.

“That’s why it’s more important than ever for consumers to support farmers in the north-east. It’s also why supermarkets have to do their bit by ensuring that these same farmers receive a fair payment for the top-quality milk they supply.

“Agriculture is the mainstay of many rural towns and villages in Banff and Buchan, and I am very happy to support this campaign.”

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Jul 212016
 

Aberdeen accountancy firm Hall Morrice leads companies through the maze of claiming time-limited relief. With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Andrew Bell

Andrew Bell, corporate tax manager at independent accountants Hall Morrice LLP.

Britain’s economy has reached a major milestone with the country’s private sector business population exceeding five million for the first time ever.

But corporations are not driving forward the economy: the boom is being credited to the number of enterprising sole trader and partnership businesses deciding to branch out on their own.

According to the Business Population Statistics report, some 330,000 new ventures had been launched in a 12 month period leading up to the start of 2014.

Of these businesses, 197,000 were operating as unincorporated traders.

The report, produced by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, states that the combined annual turnover of small businesses was £1.2 trillion – around 33% of turnover within the private sector.

“The numbers are phenomenal and underlines that SMEs – particularly those at the S end of the scale – are the backbone of the economy,” says Andrew Bell, corporate tax manager of independent Aberdeen based accountancy firm Hall Morrice LLP.

“The figures would appear to suggest that small businesses are recognising that an unincorporated sole trader or partnership structure is best suited to their needs. Some businesses have been a little quick off the mark to set up as a limited company when that structure is not at all suited to how they will be operating.

“For many businesses, a limited company structure is the most tax efficient way to operate the business. However, with additional legal and compliance burdens placed on the shareholders, the time incurred in meeting those obligations often means that the efficiencies are negligible or even non-existent.

“Shareholders have often felt they have no option but to carry on operating as they are because disincorporation has always been a complex and ultimately very expensive process.

“HMRC recognised this and in 2013 introduced disincorporation relief for small businesses. Essentially, it is a simplification of the rules allowing limited companies to look at their options and, if appropriate, return to or change to unincorporated status in a tax efficient manner.

“For many small firms the responsibilities that come with being a director of a limited company overwhelming and unwelcome. All too often I come across clients that are struggling to keep on top of the administrative aspects of trading through a limited company. There are many obligations to Companies House, legal responsibilities and the financial rules and regulations can be a minefield without appropriate guidance.”

The disincorporation relief applies up to 31 March, 2018 and allows a company to transfer all of its assets, or all of its assets other than cash to shareholders who wish to continue the business in an unincorporated structure, without a charge to corporation tax arising on the transfer.

There are some criteria that must be met. For example, the total qualifying assets, including goodwill, must not be worth more than £100,000; the business must be transferred as a going concern; and the shareholders must have held shares in the company for at least 12 months before the transfer date.

Disincorporation frees up time and costs devoted to compliance of company accounts, corporation tax returns, and annual returns and allows many small businesses to make efficiencies in their budget for accountancy fees.

According to HRMC, over 600,000 businesses across the UK could be eligible to make a claim for disincorporation relief. Hall Morrice has helped many limited companies, where it has been found both desirable by and beneficial to the shareholders, return to an unincorporated status, and is in the process of recommending disincorporation to many more.

With the disincorporation relief scheme due to end in March 2018, Andrew urges companies that may fit better within an unincorporated structure not to delay looking at their options.

Andrew explains,

“There are some qualifying criteria as with any such tax relief schemes, but it has been set up in a way that makes the process as smooth as possible. The scheme will run for five years, and is due to be wound up in 2018 so it is a time-limited opportunity.

“Although 2018 may seem a long way off, I would recommend that business owners start considering their options now. I’ve worked with several businesses that have been through this process and it is not something that will happen overnight.

“On the face of it, there would be no better time to opt for disincorporation when there is the incentive of relief, but it is not for everyone. There are many advantages to remaining incorporated, including flexibility over profit extraction.

“There are lots of considerations to be made, and our team will work with shareholders to weigh up the pros and cons of moving to unincorporated status. It is vitally important to make the right decision as once a claim has been made, it is irrevocable.

“If shareholders do decide that they would like to opt for disincorporation, we will prepare the claim and guide them through the whole process to make sure that all obligations to HMRC and Companies House are met.”

Founded in 1976, Hall Morrice is one of Scotland’s leading independent firms of chartered accountants and has offices in Aberdeen and Fraserburgh. Based at 6 & 7 Queens Terrace in Aberdeen, Hall Morrice can be contacted on 01224 647394 or at accounts@hallmorrice.co.uk

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Jul 082016
 

With thanks to Kenneth Hutchison, Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Eilidh Whiteford.

EW with other SNP MPs and WASPI campaigners

Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford joined with SNP MPs to take part in the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament.

They demand the UK government to investigates transitional measures for 1950s-born women negatively impacted by rapid rises in the state pension age.

The SNP has repeatedly called for action from the UK government, and led a backbench business debate on the issue in January which received cross-party support.

The increase in pension age is the second for women born in the 1950s, and will have a stark financial impact on thousands of women in their 60s.

Speaking after the demonstration, Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford expressed solidarity with the women, who have now had their retirement age raised twice.

She said:

“I was pleased to see such a good contingent of Women from North-east Scotland at the event in Westminster today. The SNP has given wholehearted backing to the WASPI campaign, and we will keep up the fight for these women at Westminster.

“A large number of local women born in the mid-1950s have been badly affected by the proposed changes, and have been in touch directly with me. They can rest assured that I and my SNP colleagues will continue to press the UK Government for a rethink on how it phases in increases to the state pension age.

“Changing patterns of life expectancy do demand a response from the Government. This, however, was the wrong response, and the Government needs to consider the damage its policy will do.”

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Jun 302016
 

With thanks to Kenneth Hutchison, Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Eilidh Whiteford

Eilidh Whiteford MP Peterhead Harbour (1)

The UK Government has been urged to provide clarity for Scotland’s food producers following the vote to leave the EU.

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford raised the topic with the Prime Minister on Monday (June 27) following his statement on the Outcome of the EU Referendum.

Concerns have been raised across Scotland, which exported £4.8bn worth of food and drink in 2015, much of it to Europe.

Banff and Buchan could face particular challenges following Brexit, given the region’s significant agricultural and fish processing sectors.

Speaking afterwards, Dr Whiteford said:

“It is vital that we work to protect local jobs and economic interests in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. Key sectors, notably in food production and processing, face considerable uncertainty, as many local firms export produce and depend on access to European markets. Many also rely on migrant workers to meet labour shortages and seasonal demands.

“While the Prime Minister was able to offer short term assurances about market access and the status of EU nationals working here, he was not able to outline any timescale for negotiations to resolve these issues.

“I will be meeting stakeholders in the days and weeks ahead to identify their chief concerns, and working with the Scottish Government to secure the best deal possible for our local industries. It is critical that we fight to defend the interests of Scotland’s people and the industries on which our livelihoods depend in the days ahead.”

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Jun 102016
 

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Jenni_head and shoulders 1Representatives from local tourism body VisitAberdeenshire are heading south of the border to promote the north east of Scotland to international MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and events) buyers later this month. Business development director Peter Medley and Jenni Fraser (pictured), business development manager, will attend The Meetings Show in London from 14-16 June, to promote the region to the lucrative meetings, events and conferencing market.

Over 5,000 meetings industry professionals from across the globe will attend the exhibition, where they will have the chance to learn about the new developments in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire’s venue and incentive offering.

As well as exhibiting to the masses, Peter and Jenni will meet with key business MICE buyers in order to discuss the finer details of what the region has to offer business travellers.

Peter Medley says,

“Attending events like The Meetings Show is an incredibly important step in marketing Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire as a business travel destination to the wider world.

“Although business tourism has dipped in the north east of Scotland over the past year, there are a number of new developments which will make the region an incredibly attractive prospect for those organising world-class conferences and events.

“Hotel room rates, which were once at an all-time high thanks to the high level of energy industry professionals visiting the city, are now at a much more affordable level, making the region much more enticing to those looking for an affordable – and well-equipped – destination to hold a conference or event.”

Improvements to Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire’s infrastructure are making it easier than ever before for overseas travellers to arrive in the north east. Aberdeen International Airport is currently undergoing a £20 million expansion programme, which will see its landside, airside and security facilities improved and updated.

Coupled with new flight routes from Icelandair, which open up faster routes to many US cities and other global destinations, it has never been simpler to travel to Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

But it is not just the region’s travel facilities which are being overhauled. The Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) is about to undergo a massive £333 million redevelopment and relocation, which will see it moved closer to the airport and the Western Peripheral Route.

Due to open in 2019, the new AECC will provide greater connectivity and convenience for those travelling to exhibitions and conferences in the area. New flexible space – including a subterranean area for holding large exhibitions – will provide greatly improved facilities for those organising events.

Similarly, Aberdeen Art Gallery and the Music Hall – both situated in Aberdeen city centre – are experiencing major renovations worth £30 million and £7 million respectively. Providing the perfect venues for gala dinners, drinks receptions and conferences, these new and improved venues will be major assets to the region’s business tourism offering.

Peter concludes,

“When many think of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, their mind springs immediately to oil and gas, however the region has much more to offer meetings and conferences in all sectors – as evidenced by the wide variety of events celebrated by the Team Aberdeen Ambassador Awards earlier this year.

“The north east is also well equipped to cater for the incentive travel market. We are incredibly lucky to have a number of world-class golf courses in the region, including Royal Aberdeen and the Trump International Golf Links. Add to this a number of spectacular whisky distilleries which offer tours and tastings throughout the year, and it becomes quickly apparent just how much the region has to offer.

“We look forward to meeting event organisers from a wide variety of industries at The Meetings Show in London, and revealing to them exactly what Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire can provide.”

For more information about VisitAberdeenshire, visit www.visitabdn.com

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Mar 112016
 

Part Four: In The Long Term. By Mike Shepherd

(0)Consider this scenario for Aberdeen and the Northeast of Scotland:

There are no jobs to be had in the area, the existing industries are in decline and those employed in them are poorly paid. Unemployment is above the Scottish average. The population is falling at an astonishing rate of 4,500 per year as the locals seek jobs elsewhere.
Unfavourable comparisons are being made between Dundee and Aberdeen; Dundee is attracting inward investment on the back of preferential treatment from the government, whereas Aberdeen all on its own in the forgotten northeast corner is all but ignored.

No, not a prediction for the future, it is an actual economic snapshot of the Aberdeen area in the 1960s just before North Sea oil was discovered.

Once the oil companies leave, Aberdeen could return to economic circumstances that would be even worse than in the 1960s. At least back then there was some semblance to a diversified economy in the city. Aberdeen was dominated by the fishing industry with over a hundred trawlers in the harbour. It was also a popular tourist destination in the days before foreign travel became common.

Visitors were attracted to the city described then as the ‘Silver City by the Golden Sands’. There were two ship-building yards at the harbour and paper, textiles and combs were made in the city. Not much of this is now left. Aberdeen’s future could be an even bleaker shadow of its past if no action is taken soon to remedy this.

One thing hasn’t changed much since the 1960s however, Aberdeen’s shockingly poor transport links with the rest of the country. Given the city’s relatively remote location this does not bode well for an economic future. The road network in Aberdeenshire is a joke and the railway connection to the south has been shockingly neglected.

The rail link is still single track at Montrose, a well-known bottleneck, although a long overdue action to remedy this may now be about to happen.

Aberdeen can consider itself very hard done by. As pointed out in a previous Aberdeen Voice article ‘How Aberdeen was short-changed over North Sea oil’ – the onshore infrastructure to support North Sea oil was paid by local government and assisted by our rates / council taxes but not by the UK government. Between 1975 and the early 1990s the expenditure by the Grampian Regional Council was in excess of £100 million per year.

The other areas affected by North Sea oil are faring much better than we are. Revenue from the Sullom Voe and Flotta oil terminals means that Shetland now sits on an oil fund of £400 million and the equivalent in Orkney is just under £200 million.

hydrogen busA plan by Grampian Regional Council to levy rates on offshore platforms as a means of funding onshore infrastructure was blocked by the Treasury. Given that the UK tax take from North Sea oil and gas is now over £300 billion in today’s money, there is a strong moral case for the government to now help Aberdeen to establish an economic base for the future.

Our local politicians and media will need to shout very loudly that it was our local government that bankrolled the needs of the oil industry only for all the revenues to go elsewhere.

Yet, the perception is that the city has somehow squandered what should have been its golden goose; that some enormous pot of money was available to Aberdeen to do with whatever we wanted to. Here’s a recent example of this nonsense.

An opinion piece in the Dundee Courier headlined Aberdeen boost: right deal but the wrong city, referred to the recent Aberdeen City Deal, the proposed investment of £250 million in the city announced in January this year:

“I’d argue that Dundee and Perth – jointly progressing a City Deal bid at the moment – are more worthy of that investment at this moment.

“That may sound like sour grapes, but my rationale is this. As the black gold tap ran, Aberdeen had its chance to build a broad-based economy fit to withstand the rigours of the modern world. It had the opportunity to future-proof itself and create prosperity for generations to come. But, if not lost, that chance has certainly not been grasped.”

So what should Aberdeen do to diversify its economy?

I’m a petroleum geologist not an economist, so I will not profess to any special insights on the issue. Others have noted that the city could play to certain strengths; more could be done to attract tourists, particularly given the region’s scenic attractions and heritage. The area is strong in biomedicine through its academic institutions and who knows, a rump of the oil industry may linger in the city servicing the petroleum industry globally.

I will make one comment though. The most obvious successor to the oil industry in Aberdeen is the renewable energy sector. Aberdeen’s future as an energy city should be as and energy city. The city already hosts engineering companies and technical knowhow. There is an obvious crossover to be made.

This isn’t the first time that renewables has been promoted for the city and region. We have the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG) and more recently the Energetica initiative to establish the Aberdeenshire coastal strip as a corridor for the renewables industry. Neither of these has taken off big time, part of the problem being the high cost bases of the area driven up by the presence of the oil industry.

Nevertheless, the recent oil price crash has focussed attention on the need to diversify the Aberdeen economy. The politicians need to push and push until this happens with absolute determination and drive. It will take government money, but for Aberdeen, the turbo-charged motor of the UK economy for the last 40 years, it’s payback time.

Mike Shepherd is author of Oil Strike North Sea, a history of North Sea oil. Join him in an upcoming session to discuss the impact of the oil industry on our shores:
March 17th 5-6pm – Blackwell’s Book Shop, High Street, Old Aberdeen. 5-6pm. Free, but please reserve a place by phoning 01224 486102 or emailing erin.matheson@blackwell.co.uk.

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Mar 032016
 

Part Three: The Scrapheap Challenge. By Mike Shepherd

(2o)

Aberdeen Harbour. Picture: Mike Shepherd

A huge industrial undertaking is about to take place off the Scottish coast involving billions of pounds of expenditure; this is decommissioning.
As a result of an international convention for the NE Atlantic area, oil companies are obliged to remove most of the offshore infrastructure, including oil platforms and pipelines, once oil and gas production operations have ceased.

The scrap material will be brought onshore and disposed off accordingly. It will not be allowed to remain in place offshore unless there are good reasons to do so.

The scale of this operation is massive. Once the last drop of oil has been produced, it will have involved the dismantling of about 475 offshore installations, 10,000 kilometres of pipeline and 15 onshore oil and gas terminals. According to the industry body Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) decommissioning will entail £55 billion of expenditure by 2050.

Let’s repeat that figure again – an industry that will spend £55 billion (and that’s probably an underestimate) is about to hit our shores big time. The coastal cities and towns of the UK and Norway will provide the bases for this undertaking. Some of it has already happened, three of the Brent field platforms are being decommissioned, although the activity has been relatively small-scale to date.

Given the currently low oil price, it’s possible that the volume of work involved could increase substantially from now on. OGUK have predicted that 79 oil and gas platforms could be abandoned by 2024; another estimate puts this figure as high as 146 out of the 300 platforms standing in the North Sea in a similar time scale.

The world of business is acutely aware of the opportunities involved and we may be on the cusp of a feeding frenzy as companies pile in to grab what is a large and guaranteed pot of cash. The big attraction for business in getting involved with decommissioning is that it is a major growth area. Not only is there an enormous amount of guaranteed work coming up; new technologies will need to be developed given the challenges involved.

Other offshore areas in the world will eventually become the focus of decommissioning and this provides the potential for any single company to become a major internationally-established corporation worth billions on the back of gaining experience in the North Sea. The prize is enormous.

Even at this early stage it’s possible to identify trends likely to transform into future newspaper headlines. You heard them here first.

aa66The Aberdeen versus Dundee rivalry over the spoils from North Sea oil has revived. Dundee has never particularly prospered from oil and gas and this is a source of discontent for the Tayside city.

Dundee is now repositioning itself to become a major centre for decommissioning. Forth Ports, owned by a private equity company, are spending £10 million on upgrading the eastern end of Dundee harbour for decommissioning and offshore wind projects.

Aberdeen Harbour Board, not wishing to lose out on a vitally important industry at a time when the oil companies will be finally leaving the city, intends to turn Nigg Bay into a deep-water harbour.

According to the details given with the Aberdeen City Deal this will enable Aberdeen to compete for decommissioning work.

The development of Nigg Bay is controversial; local residents have been less than impressed with pictorial representations of the future development, complete with cruise ships and the surrounding open green space shown rather improbably as being left intact. The business behemoth of decommissioning will be very difficult to stop however.

One other area that could fill future headlines is the scale of the government involvement. The government are committed to a part-funding of decommissioning through tax breaks although the legislation is complex and it is not clear as to how much money is involved. The Guardian reckons the percentage tax relief is between 50 and 75 per cent of the total expenditure.

OGUK have recently quoted an estimate that the taxpayer will be providing £16 billion for decommissioning work by 2050 although this figure looks on the low side. The tax breaks will prove a major future liability for the UK government (or a Scottish government should independence come).

One question begs to be asked. What happens if an oil company goes bust and it doesn’t have any money to pay for decommissioning? I would anticipate there are contingency plans for this situation, although I suspect it’s a hyper-sensitive issue in government circles. The issue dogs open-cast mining operations in the Central Belt of Scotland and in Wales where several mine operators have folded before the reinstatement of the land could happen.

The legal and practical issues involved have proved to be a nightmare.

There are also the environmental implications. The Aberdeen Voice has already been at the forefront of highlighting pollution problems caused by the dumping of material from North Sea oil operations. http://aberdeenvoice.com/2014/04/bleak-day-blackdog-beach/

It will be important to ensure that future decommissioning work is carried out in an environmentally circumspect manner and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency will have much work on its hands to monitor all of this.

Big money will come to the Scottish coastal cities and towns over the next few decades from decommissioning. Aberdeen will get a share of some of this work, although it remains to be seen whether the city can chase off the challenge from Dundee to become a potential national centre for the decommissioning industry. It’s the scrapheap challenge.

Next week – the final part of the series: The long-term future for Aberdeen.

Mike Shepherd is author of Oil Strike North Sea, a history of North Sea oil. Join him in two upcoming sessions to discuss the impact of the oil industry on our shores:

March 9th 6.30 – 8pm – Aberdeen Central Library. Free, but booking essential. Contact the library on 01224 – 652500 or email Libraryevents@aberdeencity.gov.uk
March 17th 5-6pm – Blackwell’s Book Shop, High Street, Old Aberdeen. 5-6pm. Free, but please reserve a place by phoning 01224 486102 or emailing erin.matheson@blackwell.co.uk.

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