An audience of 200 got up early to attend Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC)’s first business breakfast event of the year.
The group’s chief executive Russell Borthwick said it was “great to be back” as he welcomed guests and a panel of speakers – including an energy systems specialist dialling in on a big screen from London.
He noted that the breakfast would have been taking place as the first meeting kicking off SPE Offshore Europe, a major biennial industry conference and exhibition which organisers were forced to cancel again at the start of January due to the spread of the Omicron variant.
A vocal critic of Covid restrictions and their effect on the economy, the AGCC boss did not pull his punches in his opening remarks.
Restrictions and propaganda
“The fact this breakfast is no longer the gateway to Offshore Europe is due in large part to the ongoing restrictions and propaganda from government and its agencies which are destroying business and consumer confidence,” he said.
“It is an event where big business deals get done – deals which provide valuable contracts for companies here,” he said.
“It draws thousands of visitors contributing about £50 million for the north-east economy
“Its cancellation is a hammer blow to businesses and not just the energy sector.
“For many bars, restaurants, hotels, taxi drivers and other support services, Offshore Europe is right up there with Christmas in terms of the customers and revenue it brings.
“And many businesses lost both of those in the space of six weeks.”
Living in dangerous times
He further highlighted the “dangerous times” businesses face ahead of bill in Holyrood on Wednesday which seeks to permanently enshrine emergency lockdown powers in law.
Under the proposals, ministers would have powers to impose stay-at-home restrictions, restrict access to schools and would be able to shut pubs, restaurants and shops without parliamentary approval.
He said the Scottish Government’s own consultation had found little support for the measures “yet they are pressing ahead anyway, potentially making Scotland less competitive and attractive to investors and putting at risk our recovery – dangerous times,” he said.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The proposed public health protection measures bring Scotland into line with legislation that is already in statute in England and Wales, ensuring ministers can take effective and proportionate action to face public health threats.”
The theme of the event was “energising the race to net zero”.
It featured speakers including Hari Vamadevan, regional director for UK and Ireland, energy systems at classification specialist DNV who said the oil and gas industry was both “part of the problem and part of the solution” to reaching net zero targets which were “possible but very challenging”.
However events are returning as both the pandemic and restrictions ease.
Organisers Subsea Expo 2022 have confirmed they are making final arrangements ahead of welcoming delegates to the Granite City’s P&J Live from 22-24 February.