Monday, 24 February 2014

Oil and the Maritime Boundary


I thought about doing another headlines post but, just in time, I realised I’d be making a rod.  I couldn’t possibly do this every day and so instead ….


Given that oil will dominate today I think it worthwhile to reproduce an excellent Craig Murray post about the maritime boundary between Scotland and England. 

Undoubtedly the boundary will be a contentious issue because it affects  whether oil fields are in Scottish or English waters.  Murray claims duplicity (surely not) in the re-drawing of the boundary in 1999.  If he is correct, and I have no reason to doubt him, this puts the UK government action in the McCrone league.


Scotland/England Maritime Boundaries

by craig on January 11, 2012 9:17 am


sea-grab Craig Murray


According to existing Westminster legislation, English waters stretch at their North Easterly point to 56 degrees 36 minutes north – that is over 100 miles North of the border at Berwick, and North of Dundee.

In 1999 Tony Blair, abetted by the Scottish traitor Donald Dewar, redrew the existing English/Scottish maritime boundary to annex 6,000 square miles of Scottish waters to England, including the Argyll field and six other major oilfields. The idea was specifically to disadvantage Scotland’s case for independence.

The pre-1999 border was already very favourable to England. In 1994, while I was Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I had already queried whether it was too favourable to England. I little anticipated that five years later Blair would push it seventy miles North!!

I should explain that I was the Alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and was number 2 on the UK team that negotiated the UK/Ireland, UK/Denmark (Shetland/Faeroes), UK/Belgium, and Channel Islands/France maritime boundaries, as well as a number of British Dependent Territories boundaries. There are very few people in the World – single figures – who have more experience of actual maritime boundary negotiation than me.

The UK’s other maritime boundaries are based on what is known formally in international law as the modified equidistance principle. The England/Scotland border was of course imposed, not negotiated. It is my cold, professional opinion that this border lies outside the range of feasible solutions that could be obtained by genuine negotiation, arbitration or judgement.

It ignores a number of acknowledged precepts in boundary resolutions, most important of which is how to deal with an inverted right angle coastline, as the Scottish coastline is from Elgin to Berwick, with the angle point around Edinburgh. It also fails adequately to close the Forth and Tay estuaries with baselines – by stark contrast to the massive baselines the UK used across the Thames and Stour.

It is essential that Scotland is not conned into accepting the existing England Scotland maritime boundary as a precondition of any independence referendum. This boundary must be subject to negotiation between equal nations post independence, and in my opinion is most likely to end with referral to the International Court of Justice. I have no doubt the outcome would be a very great deal better for Scotland than the Blair-Dewar line, which would cost Scotland billions.


Thanks, Craig!


  1. The Shetland-Scotland boundary may be rather relevant too, if Shetland decides to go independent or join Norway, as has been discussed. Interesting times (perhaps - though probably not, since the vote will probably be No)

  2. I'm sure all possible obstacles to independence will be raised.

    The British establishment (which includes Scots) fears a diminution of the UK's, and their own, status.

    There is a massive ruthlessness to maintain the status quo and to retain power.