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UK Government ‘looking at’ oil and gas sector deal, Michael Gove says

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and Aberdeen City Council co-leader Jenny Laing.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and Aberdeen City Council co-leader Jenny Laing.

Michael Gove has reiterated the UK Government’s consideration of a north-east oil and gas sector deal and confirmed he is exploring support for the city’s hydrogen project.

The Cabinet Office Minister paid a visit to Aberdeen on Tuesday where he saw the city’s hydrogen refuelling station at Kittybrewster, which he said offered a “brilliant example” of a local authority that has shown “real commercial innovation”.

The Conservative politician, who hails from the north-east, also committed to consider delivering support for the hydrogen project, which has seen the city acquire the largest fleet of buses powered by the green technology in Europe.

However, SNP MP Stephen Flynn, who represents Aberdeen South, said it amounted to little more than “positive words” with little specifics on a timetable for delivery of the deal.

Speaking in Aberdeen on Tuesday, Mr Gove said: “We’re looking at an oil and gas sector deal overall and I’m also exploring how we can use UK Government support for innovative projects like this.

“It seems to me that if we work hand in hand with local councils and with the Scottish Government then we can have a triple whammy.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and Aberdeen City Council co-leader Jenny Laing.“We can have local councils who are pioneers, a Scottish Government that will benefit from broader investment and a UK Government that sees one of the crown jewels in the UK economy, which is the north-east’s energy leadership, actually being used to bring a greater degree of prosperity not just to the region but to all of Scotland’s economy.”

Mr Gove’s trip to the north-east comes less than a week after Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Orkney and the north, which the SNP said showed the UK leader was “in a panic” about rising support for Scottish independence.

However, Mr Gove denied this was the purpose of his visit, instead stating he had promised to speak with people in the hospitality sector in the north of the country, who are badly affected by the pandemic, and to take part in discussions with Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid on what the oil and gas sector can do to help with an “effective energy transition”.

He also used the opportunity to see his parents, who still live in the city, for the first time since lockdown.

“I saw them last night. We will be back to see them in Aberdeen with the family later in the month”, he said.

“It was the first time I’ve seen them since the pandemic.

“We’ve talked on the phone but it’s the first time I’ve seen them face to face.”

The Cabinet Office Minister was born in Edinburgh and, at four months old, was adopted by his parents Ernest and Christine in the Granite City.

Growing up in the north-east he said he had seen the “transformative impact” the oil and gas sector had on the “economic fortunes” of the region.

Studies have shown the region could be among the worst hit by Brexit but the Conservative politician maintains that the projections these make provide an “opportunity to look at policy and if there are risks then we can take steps to eliminate those risks”.

He added:  “We want to make sure that the entrepreneurialism that is here, the academic excellence that is here, is supported in the future and one of the things I’ll be doing over the course of the next few months is talking to people in the Scottish Government, in local councils and in the university and business sector to see how much more the UK Government can do to help.”

Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn said the UK Government has failed to set a timetable for delivery of an oil and gas sector deal.

The Scottish Government last month announced a £62 million energy transition fund to protect the oil and gas industry from the dual economic impacts of a global downturn in demand and coronavirus.

The investment, which is focused particularly in the north-east, underpins the region’s ambitions to become a world leader in the transition to net zero.

Mr Flynn: “We’re again hearing lots of positive words from the UK Government but what we need to actually see is a timetable for delivery – something which is, once again, completely missing.

“If Michael Gove had been paying attention then he would know that the Scottish Government invested £62 million into the energy transition just a matter of weeks ago – it’s the Tories who are continually dragging their heels and that needs to end.

“Our energy sector has delivered over £350 billion of revenue to the UK Treasury – we now need to see huge investment in return in order to protect jobs and the economic future of the city and region.”

Deirdre Michie, OGUK’s chief executive, said it is discussing a “transformational sector deal” with the UK Government, with “jobs, the supply chain and energy communities at its core”.

She added: “It will also set out how the UK’s oil and gas industry will play its part to support a green recovery, working together with government, and we would welcome any further progress on this in the near future.”

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