The oil and gas industries stand on a cliff edge and could take communities in the north-east with them should they fall, council officials have warned.
Thousands of jobs could be in danger as the furlough scheme ends next month and hard-pressed firms across the region consider their futures.
There have already been thousands of job losses across the UK due to the “triple whammy” of Covid-19, the dramatic drop in oil prices and low gas prices.
And members of Aberdeenshire Council have been discussing the impact on communities if there is further bad news in an effort to assess what aid it can offer.
Belinda Miller, head of economic development and protective services at Aberdeenshire Council, told colleagues on the authority’s sustainability committee: “We all know we don’t really know the scale of the challenge yet from an employment point of view, let alone company surviability through post covid-scenarios we looking at.
“We cannot assume it’s going to be an easy journey for any of us in public sector as we support people who potentially will become unemployed.
“The scale of potential unemployment in the region is significant. If there was a 10% unemployment rate, that’s 26,000 jobs in the city and shire.
“Already data shows a large number of people have been made unemployed from oil and gas sector – and we know the October cliff edge will be quite significant.”
Ms Miller pledged to organise a meeting with local contacts, such as at Opportunity North East (ONE).
The meeting will revolve around how companies are currently adapting and preparing for potential job losses – but will also explore what the council can do to support people who might soon be out of work.
Currently, the local authority is working with colleges, universities and Skills Development Scotland and looking at how staff can reskill and adapt as the oil and gas sector shifts.
Councillor Ann Ross, who represents Banchory and Mid-Deeside, has concerns for communities in the north-east.
She said: “A lot of the people working in oil and gas are highly skilled, and highly skilled workers may soon be relocating elsewhere to look for work.
“I don’t think the majority of them will stay in the north-east of Scotland and if people are moving away, what will happen to our villages, our towns, our rural areas in relation to our property market?”
Ms Ross said it was vital to be “realistic” about the scale of the problem the north-east could face and the measures needed to protect businesses, their workforce and communities.
In July, the Scottish Government published the Just Transition Commission Advice for a Green Recovery report.
The report recommended the country boost investment in warmer homes; back businesses and support the supply chain; aid the rural economy by helping Scotland’s nature; and, crucially for the north-east, maintain and create new jobs for oil and gas workers.
Inverurie councillor Neil Baillie, himself an ex oil and gas worker, added: “It doesn’t just come down to creating and maintaining new jobs as it is also about the wider support the oil and gas sector has given our communities.
“If they go, many other areas will have problems.
“And this isn’t just your oil and gas companies. There are many oil and gas services companies in Aberdeen that could also be affected.”