The British government has said it will introduce measures to increase the economic benefits from North Sea gas and oil, as it tries to persuade Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom.
The announcement on Monday, timed to coincide with Prime Minister David Cameron's first full cabinet meeting in the Scottish city of Aberdeen, aims to boost the oil and gas industry, shore up tax revenues, reduce dependence on energy imports and to persuade Scots to stay in the UK, Reuters news agency reported.
Scots will vote on whether to end their 307-year-old union with England on September 18 and the future of the country's oil and gas industry has featured heavily in a campaign from pro-independence nationalists.
The North Sea is thought to contain billions of barrels of hard-to-reach oil, but with many platforms and pipelines coming to the end of their working lives, time is running out to get them.
The measures the government said it would adopt and fast-track were all recommended in a report drawn up by Ian Wood, former chairman of oil services company Wood Group, on maximising recovery of oil and gas from Britain's North Sea.
They include the creation of a new independent industry regulator and a decision to award production licences on the basis of recovering the maximum amount of oil from UK waters as a whole rather than just each individual licence block.