An “unprecedented” declaration has been signed by five former UK and Scottish Government ministers urging support for the oil and gas industry.
The cross-party quintet signed the statement at Aberdeen’s South Harbour on Monday, ahead of the SNP-Green alliance delivering the Scottish Government’s revamped energy strategy in the autumn.
Former Scottish energy minister and current SNP MSP, Fergus Ewing, and Amber Rudd, the former conservative UK energy secretary, put pen to paper at the event organised by the Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) trade body.
They were joined by Lib Dem MP and former Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael, along with former UK energy ministers Charles Hendry (conservative) and Brian Wilson (Labour).
Together they called for an end to damaging “polarised” views that backing for North Sea oil and gas and renewables are in opposition, urging support for the sector amid the transition.
Mr Hendry said the North Sea and decarbonisation are “two sides of the same coin” while Mr Ewing said the skills and resources of oil and gas are crucial to emissions-busting tech like carbon capture and storage.
Mr Wilson told a press conference that the cross-party support has been delivered to tackle incorrect views with damaging consequences.
“The consequence of taking the polarised view is one that we destroy jobs, we destroy businesses and we destroy opportunities in the world to be a leader and at the same time, crazily, become more dependent on imports.”
Ms Rudd added: “There are all sorts of new technologies as part of the transition agreement that can be harnessed and are being harnessed, with proper investment in order to do that.
“It’s not – it never should be – one of the other. We need the support for the oil and gas industry to deliver on that transition and we need to acknowledge that and work together.”
However the Greenpeace activist group was far from convinced.
Political campaignerAmi McCarthy, said: “Are these guys joking? The government has been falling over itself to support oil and gas companies, granting them massive tax breaks and approving a destructive new gas field – meanwhile allowing fuel poverty to soar.
“The idea that supporting fossil fuel companies would somehow help tackle the climate crisis is like backing the tobacco industry as a way to cure cancer.”
The Scottish Government, led by the SNP-Green alliance, is due to publish a revamped energy strategy in the autumn.
Monday’s oil and gas declaration makes a series of asks, including support for the industry as it goes through the “just transition” in alignment with the North Sea Transition Deal signed last year, which puts net zero from the industry at the year 2050.
Fergus Ewing was asked whether they were seeking support for 30 more years of oil and gas, but answered: “In order to achieve net zero we have to have a thriving oil and gas sector”.
He then pointed to higher imports from LNG, and other impacts, if North Sea production was ramped down.
“Without oil and gas…my partner’s an anaesthetist, all the anaesthetist drugs are complex hydrocarbons.
“Do we want to go back to the days where we’re carrying out operations when people are chocking on a chloroform-dampened cloth? I don’t really think so.”
He added: “If we stop producing gas here, our carbon footprint as a country becomes far greater. If that is true, as no one has disputed, the only sensible thing to do is to carry on with our production.
“We can be world leaders in these new technologies, we can also promote the work we’re doing by resumption of active promotion of the industry in places like OTC (conference in Texas) and throughout the world as well.
“By doing that we can cheer that leadership in the rest of the world and gradually decarbonize production of oil and gas which, without doubt, will be required for decades to come.”
OEUK CEO Deirdre Michie said, for the industry, the oil and gas declaration is “music to our ears” but highlighted that the windfall tax announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak last month has undermined investment.
Mr Ewing said the group acknowledges that a “stable” investment regime “is essential, a prerequisite, for the scale of investment that’s required”.
Alistair Carmichael, a serving MP, said similar measures have been discussed several times during his tenure.
He said: “This is certainly the third time in my parliamentary career we’ve been around this course. The lessons I would take from the two previous experiences is that partnership and dialogue between industry and government is absolutely critical.
“The windfall tax is going to be a process than an individual event and there’s a lot more for the industry to be talking to government about this.
“If industry goes to the government with this new narrative and explain the important role that they have in achieving the political aims to which we are all, in different departments, signed up, then I think the nature, tone and eventual outcomes will be much more positive and give that element of stability and certainty.”