There may be plenty of shale gas beneath the north of England – and elsewhere – but it will only be developed if local people support its extraction. And they won’t do so unless they believe that they will gain a share of the proceeds.
The ConservativeHome Manifesto supports “the creation of a UK Sovereign Wealth Fund into which all new public windfall revenues – for instance, the tax revenues from offshore gas and oil extraction – would be paid”.
George Osborne’s version is more narrowly targetted – the Conservative Manifesto says that that “the shale gas resources of the North [will be] used to invest in the future of the North” – but is arguably more practicable.
It is also all of a piece with his Northern Powerhouse vision. What will be crucial is how much money goes into the fund and how effectively it is distributed. But the Chancellor is unambiguously supportive of shale. Labour is far less so – another reminder of what will be at stake tomorrow.