Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of believing the oil and gas downturn is “already over”.
The accusation comes as the Scottish Government winds up the working group tasked with salvaging North Sea jobs in the struggling sector.
The move, which has been branded premature, comes despite posts still being axed across the north-east.
North-east MSP Lewis Macdonald also claims the Scottish Government has failed to acknowledge the impact of the crude price crisis on the wider economy three years after the industry was plunged in chaos.
Oil and Gas UK claim that more than 120,000 people have lost their job since 2014. And the body’s most recent economic report showed that 60,000 people across the UK had lost employment in the industry and supply chain last year.
However Ms Sturgeon, who was in Aberdeen yesterday to wind up the government’s Energy Jobs Taskforce, has denied that the government failed to do enough to help those put out of work.
She said around 6,000 people had been helped to retrain or offered support and advice when faced with the threat of redundancy.
And she defended the decision to shutdown the working group, the work of which will now be taken forward by the Oil and Gas Industry Leadership Group, co-chaired by Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse.
Ms Sturgeon also highlighted that under the guidance of the taskforce, oil and gas innovation spend almost trebled last year, with £15.9 million of Scottish Enterprise support for 82 companies to deliver 111 projects.
In total, 800 companies have also been advised in areas such as innovation, leadership, internationalisation, business resilience and diversification.
Ms Sturgeon said: “It was a collective decision that now is the right time, not to end support for the oil and has sector, but change how that support is being delivered – to mainstream the work into existing organisations overseen by the Industry Leadership Group.
“The taskforce has done a great amount of work around training – the Transition Training fund has helped more than 2,000 people retrain and more than 4,000 people have received advice when they were facing redundancy.
“Everyone knows there are still challenges ahead for oil and gas but we are seeing some signs of recovery.”
She added: “Three years ago when I set up this taskforce the feeling here was one of utter despondence and we were all feeling it.
“I think one of the most important things that the task force managed to achieve was the least tangible – it brought the right people together round the table, it actually helped to foster a spirit of collaboration within the industry but also crucially between the industry, public sector and trade unions.”
However Mr MacDonald, Scottish Labour MSP, wrote of his concerns in a letter to Ms Sturgeon yesterday.
He said: “I am sorry that your Government has never at any stage acknowledge the impact of the downturn in oil and gas on the wider Scottish economy, and I am concerned that your appear to believe the downturn is already over.
“While there is cautious optimism in the sector about the prospects for some recovery ahead, there are very few people who expect a return to the oil price of level of economic activity of three years ago.”
Alexander Burnett, Scottish Conservative Energy spokesman, added that while there have been green shoots of recovery in the sector, there is still a lot of work to do.
He added: “Given there have been more than 100,000 redundancies since the start of the downturn, it could certainly be argued that the Energy Jobs Taskforce was a sticking plaster approach to a much bigger problem.
“However, there is no doubt that this will have helped many people and it is surprising that the First Minister thinks the job is now done.”
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