Amber Rudd vowed to return to Aberdeen more regularly as she made her first visit to the UK’s energy capital after more than a year in her ministerial post.
The energy minister insisted she was was not trying to “sugar the pill” with regard to the challenges facing the industry as spoke at the annual Oil and Gas conference at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre.
The politician had earlier been criticised by Aberdeen South MP Callum McCaig who said her absence from the city was “unjustifiable”.
But she insisted the “most important thing” was to deliver results for the industry, insisting she hopes “to come more to Aberdeen” despite the life of a politician being “slightly erratic sometimes”.
She spoke in front of delegates at an evening drinks reception led by EnQuest chief executive Neil McCulloch where she told the audience the industry was “front of mind”.
Rudd said she was visiting the city to “make the point clear” how important the sector was to the UK Government.
Her visit to Aberdeen comes just days after a report was published by PriceWaterhouseCoopers which claimed there was a two-year window for the industry to make changes to ensure its longevity on the UKCS.
Oil & Gas UK also recently published a report which estimated up to 120,000 indirect and direct jobs from the sector could be lost by the end of the year.
Rudd said measures including £250million of investment in Aberdeen’s City Region Deal earlier this year as well as intergovernmental work was all contributing to supporting the industry.
She said: “We know that it’s a difficult situation we know that there’s a lower oil price and that there’s a diminishing supply but there is still substantial resources there. The UK Government will be continuing to give as much support as it can to make sure it remains a positive source of employment and resource that still supplies a lot of our vital oil and gas.”
Rudd said the issue of job losses was exactly what industry regulator the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) was trying to address.
She added: “The more productive we can make the industry the more profitable it will be and the more likely all those jobs are going to be staying in place.
“We are absolutely committed to making sure we offer the assistance we can to make it competitive – that’s the biggest help the government could give.
“Nobody knows what the price of oil is going to be over the next few years but what we do know is this is going to become an increasingly competitive basin because of the action we’re all taking collaboratively.
“I’m not trying to sugar the pill and I understand the difficulties we face here which is why I’m taking it so seriously but my experience of talking to the industry at the oil and gas meetings I’ve been to is that there is more to be done to make it more productive and they are up for that challenge.”
Rudd said fiscal changes made by the UK Government since the global decline in oil price had been “the most substantial” measures taken by any government.
She said the UK Government was not now simply “managing decline” insisting there was “still substantial resources” in the North Sea.
McCaig earlier said he didn’t know “what the explanation” was for the energy secretary “waiting a year to come here during one of the toughest times for the industry” but added the “most important thing” was that she had now visited the city.