Oil & Gas UK held a hustings event on 12 April in Aberdeen to allow political parties to showcase their plans for offshore oil and gas and to discover how prospective parliamentary candidates will support the industry.
“What is the most important thing you would do to support the oil and gas industry and those who work in it?”
If re-elected, I will continue to work with others including Oil & Gas UK, the UK Government, and workforce representatives to seek to secure the long term future of the industry and use our power and influence to sustain the industry through these tough times, and to seek to attract and secure more investment for the sector.
We need a clear political statement, from all parties contesting the Scottish Parliament election, that there is a sustainable future for the Oil and Gas industry with the right policy support.
The UK Government has already taken steps to improve the fiscal regime, making tax changes which have been welcomed by the sector, and bringing forward a City Deal for Aberdeen City and Shire. The Scottish Government’s responsibility is to work with the industry in terms of delivering infrastructure, and providing the necessary skills support.
There will be a recovery in Oil and Gas, and our efforts should go into supporting and sustaining the industry in the interim period, not making premature decisions about decommissioning or divestment. Finally, we should be open to the opportunities from unconventional fossil fuel extraction onshore in Scotland.
Early closure of loss-making offshore infrastructure could cost the economy hundreds of millions of barrels and billions of pounds of value. The prospect of early decommissioning of hub platforms or pipelines means that many discovered assets in the North Sea may simply be written off.
In some of these cases, no single company can afford to prolong the operating life of vital infrastructure on its own. The OGA is right to press the owners of stranded assets to collaborate to make this investment, but Government can and must do more, in the public interest. Labour proposes a new partnership through a new public company, UK Oil, which would take a direct stake in threatened strategic assets to keep oil and gas flowing until prices recover. UK Oil would work with the OGA and the industry to maximise the benefits of public investment. If we are successful in May’s election, Scottish Labour will take a lead to make this happen.
The first thing is to ensure is that all elected representatives including MPs and MSPs recognise and understand the difficulties faced by the north-sea oil and gas industry. As recently as 5th January an MSP intervened in a major debate on this subject and declared that there was no jobs crisis in the North Sea and that the Industry was booming.
Before any action can be taken to support the industry it is important to recognise that there is a problem in the first place.
While the most direct support available is through the UK government in tax breaks there are support measures which the Scottish government can take. Their task force should focus particularly on facilitating co-operation to cut costs and on the pooling of resources. It should also support the retention of a skilled workforce through training and upskilling programmes.
All Green MSPs will work for investment in well paid, high quality jobs that use the skills and expertise of Scotland’s energy sector workers. We cannot leave these workers hanging out to dry like the coal miners 30 years ago, and simply cutting taxes for the heavily-subsidised oil industry won’t guarantee anyone’s job. A well-managed transition away from oil and gas is the only way to develop long term employment sustainability.
Scotland could be leading the world in decommissioning oil and gas plants. We should be a world leader in renewable energy research, development and production. We must see funding going towards infrastructure improvements and industries that can sustain high quality, well paid and long term jobs. If we plan and invest now, Scotland can ensure that our skilled workforce have a secure future, and that Scotland’s economy provides for all – even in a post-fossil fuel age.