Monday, 15 March 2010


Two Scottish ladies, Jinty McGinty from Glasgow and Sadie McBraidie from Aberdeen, met for a scone in Scone.

Mothering Sunday had brought on a bitter-sweet twang of nostalgia, both of them having recently experienced the empty nest syndrome for the first time. They realised this was foolish, since their wee boys had grown into big galumphing students, and were happily ensconced in their studies away from home at university. None-the-less, the two mothers were in need of comfort and solace.

‘I don’t know,’ moaned Jinty between buttery mouthfuls. ‘I can’t help worrying. I mean...geology. Really! What kind of a subject is that for a young man to choose? And he would have made such a lovely doctor too?’

Sadie raised her drawn-on eyebrows. ‘Whatever do you mean, Jinty? Geology is a noble subject, and tells us all sorts of helpful and useful things. I’m sure he’ll find it most diverting.’

‘Oh, it’s alright for you, with a sensible boy doing engineering. But honestly, geology. It’s all because he likes the hills. Never stops picking up odd bits of rock. And I’m the one who has to dust his collection, you know. It’s awful boffinish, don’t you think? And he’s simply bound to end up with one of those big hairy beards...they all do, in geology. And he was such a bonny wee lad, too.’

‘Pull yourself together. You're havering,' said Sadie, replacing her floral teacup firmly into its saucer. ‘He’s not a bonny wee lad any more, and he can grow a beard if he must. You’re allowed to do strange things when you’re a student. Now dinna fash yersel and think what a lovely career he’s going to have.’

Jinty emitted a small screech. ‘That’s just it...what sort of career can he have with geology? It’s all about very old rocks...I can’t see the sense in it...seems to me it’s an absolute dead end.’

But Sadie had her head screwed on, and blessed with the strong work ethic typical of folk from the North East, she basked in a practical vision as far as careers were concerned. She leant forward into the table and eyed Jinty meaningfully. ‘Well, that just goes to show, dearie, how much you know about the Scottish economy. Haven’t you heard about the oil industry? Don’t you know they are crying out for good geologists...even now?’

Jinty was a wee bit peeved. ‘Well I don’t see what that’s got to do with it? After all, what sort of career will that give him? And it’s so unfashionable these days, what with all this talk of being green. And anyway, surely the oil’s bound to run out soon, isn’t it?’

‘Well you may say that, but it’ll take a geologist to tell us,’ whispered Sadie in triumph.

Considering the significance of the oil industry to the Scottish and the UK economy, it is astonishing how little interest the Scots themselves take in it. Outside the North East of Scotland, and of course, Shetland, where everyone knows very well what oil has done for us, there is still an enormous ignorance of an industry that has generated more revenue for Scotland than any other in recent years. We do live, after all, in the Oil Age, so one might think it would be front page news on a daily basis. But as legitimate and urgent concern for the environment is quite rightly occupying our thoughts, the riches oil has provided and the technological advances it has nurtured seem to be rather underplayed.

Guess what...this is not the case in Norway. With 50% of Norway’s revenue currently being created by the oil and gas industry, everyone from Kristiansand to Hammerfest is thoroughly well-aware of what the industry is doing, and has done, for this nation. The general public realise that Norway has around 50% of the oil and gas reserves of Western Europe, one of their biggest customers being the UK. Norwegians have witnessed the enormous changes this oil wealth has brought, and they understand the need for technology to drive the industry forward.

For anyone who, this very morning, woke up in a warm house, washed, put on clothes, ate breakfast, touched any kind of plastic, used motorised transport or fiddled with an electronic device, they should know that oil is easing their every move. It made the very screen you are looking at now. The likes of Jinty McGinty from Glasgow are not paying attention. Has it never occurred to her that the expertise and brains harboured by the oil and gas industry could well offer a way forward in the search for alternative energy?



  1. Believe me, it was even worse being a Scottish GIRL who wanted to study geology!!!

  2. Nature has given Norwegians a lot to be grateful for, not least the oil. Although most of us do appreciate what the revenues from oil and gas has done for our country, our younger generation sadly does not seem interested in studying the sciences anymore, now it's more about media and fashion (no offence intended). Norway needs to breed more young and eager (petroleum) engineers, geologists and geoscientists - who prefer the smell of hydrocarbons to the smell of caffè latte.....

  3. There is certainly a piece to be written on why there are so many more female geologists, engineers and other scientists in Norway than in Scotland...(altho I don't believe that is the case in medicine) is noticeable, but is it changing?
    Meanwhile, how do we make science 'fashionable'...Norway is surely not the only place where the lure of the media is takin over.