The UK Government has given fresh commitments that the planned North Sea transition deal will be delivered by the end of next month.
In a letter to north-east SNP MPs, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the aim is to complete negotiations with oil and gas bosses and publish the document within the first quarter of 2021.
It follows the submission of formal proposals on the deal by industry last month.
Mr Kwarteng added he is hopeful that a “really good agreement” can be reached, which balances ongoing support for the North Sea with the need to play an “ambitious role” in the energy transition.
A “transformational” sector deal was promised by the Conservatives in their 2019 election manifesto.
It’s expected to outline measures to help the oil and gas industry progressively shift away from fossil fuels, incentivising private investment and creating new jobs in the process.
News that a deal is around the corner will provide a welcome boost to the North Sea, which has been down on its luck in recent months.
Covid-19 and the subsequent oil price crash has resulted in the postponement of scores of projects and loss of thousands of jobs in the industry.
Late last year, the north-east’s SNP MPs wrote to the then Business Secretary Alok Sharma calling for a “categorical assurance” that the deal would be signed off before the end of March.
Stephen Flynn, Kirsty Blackman, Richard Thomson and David Doogan, who represent Aberdeen South, Aberdeen North, Gordon and Angus respectively, also asked for a meeting to establish what it would include.
Mr Kwarteng, who took over from Mr Sharma in January, has now confirmed the deal will be published in the coming weeks and committed to meet with the group.
In his response to the letter sent in December he said: “I am aware that the coronavirus pandemic and the low oil price brought huge challenges to the oil and gas sector which supports tens of thousands of high-quality jobs; it is vitally importance to the UK’s energy security of supply and for our plans for a transition to a net zero future.
“We are working closely with the offshore oil and gas sector to agree a transformational North Sea Transition Deal, which we have committed to deliver early this year.
“In January, we received the formal proposal from industry for a Transition Deal and have now moved into negotiations with the sector. We aim to complete the negotiations and publish within Q1 of 2021.”
Mr Kwarteng added: “As you will know, I was directly involved in the conversations with industry as the proposal for the Transition Deal was being progressed.
“I was very much in favour of bringing forward the completion of the Deal and I am hopeful that we can manage to reach a really good agreement, with ongoing support for the sector being balanced against an acceptance of the need to play an ambitious role in decarbonisation.
“Thank you for your offer of a meeting to discuss the Transition Deal, my office will be in touch in due course to make the necessary arrangements.”
Mr Flynn, the SNP’s shadow business spokesman, welcomed the response and called for the deal to be “truly transformative” to make up for “dithering” by Westminster.
He said: “Securing a transition deal to protect our city and region has been a key priority since day one and I’m pleased that we have obtained both this renewed commitment for delivery, as well as a meeting with the Secretary of State to press home just how important this is.
“The devil will of course be in the detail and with 12,000 jobs associated with the North Sea having already been lost, it’s clear that we can’t afford any half measures from the UK Government.
Mr Flynn added: “Our city and region that has contributed so much to the Treasury over the decades and it’s time that they gave back.”