Theresa May will today announce UK Government backing for a multi-million-pound Aberdeen underwater engineering hub to help the oil industry diversify into green energy.
The prime minister will say the initiative will create new jobs and help businesses thrive when she travels to the city for the Scottish Conservative conference.
The announcement will be a key part of Mrs May’s speech as she heads north with her leadership in turmoil and large sections of her party in despair over her handling of Brexit.
Scotland’s energy sector has been making plans for the underwater engineering hub as a way of transferring expertise, built up in the oil and gas sector, into technologies such as carbon capture.
The UK Government said it would help the nation become a “go-to destination” for subsea engineering, which in the UK already supports 45,000 jobs and 1,000 companies, 60% of which are based north of the border.
In her speech at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, Mrs May will praise the “outstanding contribution” of the North Sea oil and gas sector, in “incredibly challenging” conditions, to the UK economy.
She will say the UK Government has supported the industry as the oil price has fluctuated and argue that being a United Kingdom with the world’s fifth largest economy had provided the “broad shoulders” to do that.
“Today I can announce that the UK Government will back plans for a new global underwater hub right here in Aberdeen,” she will say.
“It would bring areas of excellence in underwater technology together under a single commercial vision – creating jobs, boosting the local economy and cementing Aberdeen’s place as an energy hub for offshore and renewables.
“It would help established businesses thrive and create new opportunities as the world makes the shift towards clean growth; supporting industry, helping us in the fight against climate change and creating new skilled jobs and opportunities for people to get on.”
The hub would bring together industry and academia from across the UK to focus on developing subsea robotics, remotely operated underwater vehicles and maritime support vessels.
The UK has a 40% share of the global market in underwater engineering and it has been estimated the industry could be worth more than £100 billion globally by 2035.
The move was welcomed by Oil and Gas UK chief executive Deirdre Michie who said it was recognition of the industry’s role in “enabling the transition to a low carbon economy”.
Trevor Garlick, who is leading the development of the project, said: “The hub will help UK companies win more business overseas, attract inward investment and develop the skills and technologies needed to increase our share of a growing global market.”
Andy Samuel, chief executive of the Oil and Gas Authority, said: “This is a great example of how the oil and gas sector’s world-class supply chain can contribute to a number of different industries, including those enabling a lower-carbon economy.”
Today will also see the comeback of Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson after six months of maternity leave.
With Nicola Sturgeon calling for a second independence referendum, Ms Davidson will call on Scots to put constitutional divisions behind them.
Last night, SNP MSP for Aberdeen North, Kirsty Blackman, said her party welcomed investment in subsea technology.
But she said Mrs May’s announcement “pales into insignificance given the UK Government has fleeced the North Sea to the tune of £500bn”.
SUBSEA UK REACTION
Subsea UK chief executive, Neil Gordon, said: “Subsea UK is delighted the Prime Minister has announced the UK Government’s support for a Global Underwater Hub in Aberdeen. The UK leads the world in underwater engineering and technology, with more than 1,000 companies and 45,000 jobs across the country.
“While Aberdeen is home to the majority of underwater engineering and technology companies, there are significant clusters across the UK, including Scotland’s central belt, the North-East England and South of England, supporting a range of sectors from marine renewables to oil and gas to defence.
“As the industry body for the UK underwater industry, Subsea UK represents more than 300 industry members. We have been central to the development of the Hub concept, working in partnership with industry, governments and academia, and we’ll continue to drive it forward.
“The worldwide underwater engineering market is expected to grow significantly – annual global spend could be as much as £100 billion by 2035. The UK has the competitive edge and has a wonderful opportunity to gain a larger share of this growing market.
“Today’s announcement recognises the tremendous scale and potential of underwater engineering and technology as a valuable, standalone industry sector. By creating a world-class Hub, we can ensure the UK remains the global centre of expertise.”