‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

SHINY new hotels are still going up in the capital of Britain’s oil and gas industry, on the rainswept north-east coast of Scotland. Together with posh shops and clogged roads, they hint at the prosperity that has come to Aberdeen in the decades since oil began to flow out of the North Sea. Recessions have come and gone in the rest of the country, but the Granite City has scarcely been affected.

Now, though, people are worried. Since last June the price of oil has fallen by about 60% to below $50 for a barrel of Brent crude. And it is not only the size of the fall that troubles the 160,000 or so people in the region who rely on the oil-and-gas sector, but also its timing. Most people in the industry cheerfully recall previous occasions when the price disappeared down a well—sinking as low as $10 a barrel in 1986, for instance. The black stuff always bounced back in the end. This time, though, the price drop comes at a time when the industry is already facing an unprecedented struggle for survival.