North Sea workers have had their say on Holyrood’s plan for accelerating the decline of the oil and gas industry.
Unsurprisingly, opinions of the Scottish Government’s new energy strategy from within the sector have largely followed one key theme.
A “cheap shot”, “ill informed”, a “betrayal” – all phrases used by workers to describe the just transition blueprint, published last week.
Though the strategy includes numerous ambitions and pledges aimed at driving forward the energy transition, it was the oil and gas stance that grabbed the headlines.
Detailed in the proposal, the Scottish Government is “consulting on whether, in order to support the fastest possible and most effective just transition, there should be a presumption against new exploration” in the North Sea.
While unveiling the plan in Holyrood, net zero secretary Michael Matheson claimed domestic oil and gas production will “effectively end within the next 20 years if we do nothing”, and discussions will be held on “whether we should act faster than this”.
Given energy policy is reserved by Westminster, the just transition strategy is largely ceremonial at this stage.
But it hasn’t stopped widespread accusations that the SNP/Green coalition is throwing oil and gas workers under the bus.
A ‘cheap shot’
One offshore construction manager said: “An easy political cheap shot by the SNP to keep their Green coalition alive – Scottish Government has no say over oil and gas exploration, so SNP don’t need to make the hard decisions.
“Let’s ignore the vast amounts of Scotland that rely on oil and gas for heating, cooking, transport – after all, those windfarms off Fife should keep the lights on in Edinburgh – if they ever get finished.”
Another worker said: “Why should we switch off UK oil and gas production? How’s about we keep producing until we come up with replacements for the hydrocarbon feedstock we need for the thousands of products humanity needs. Not all about energy and fossil fuels!”
One business development manager went even further, branding the strategy a total “betrayal of the north-east of Scotland”, an opinion echoed by local business leaders.
For many, the main problem with the Scottish Government’s strategy is that it focuses on oil and gas supplies, rather than demand.
Most net zero predictions have hydrocarbons as part of the energy mix up to 2050, yet ministers think 20 more years of North Sea production could be too long.
Industry experts have repeatedly warned that if domestic production reduces too quickly, the UK will simply have to import fuel from overseas, often at a higher cost to the environment.
Go after demand, not supply
A heatlh and safety consultant said: “For the short to medium term we need to explore, drill and develop the UK’s oil and gas reserves. Over 80% of households in Scotland use natural gas for their heating and about 60% for their cooking.
“So should we not develop the gas reserves we have available domestically here in the North Sea to meet this need, rather than buying and shipping it in from potentially unstable or hostile regions like Russia or Saudi Arabia?
“This will create many skilled, well paying, local jobs, generate wealth and tax revenues for our country and give us more energy security.”
A Conservative councillor and oil and gas professional described the strategy as “breathtaking stupidity” and “just virtue signalling”.
He added: “Oil and gas is vital for our energy security and economy. We will need oil and gas for decades to come and reduced North Sea investment just means more imports and a damaged economy.”
For one worker, the strategy is “neither bold or a betrayal”, it is simply “ill informed”.
“You would expect the Scottish Government to understand that the aim is to reduce demand, not production.”