The transition away from oil and gas “must not throw thousands of north-east jobs under the bus”, a Scottish Parliament debate has heard.
Nicola Sturgeon has been put on the spot in recent weeks over her government’s stance on future of oil and gas, with accusations ministers have “abandoned” the sector.
In a parliamentary debate, the Scottish Conservatives argued prematurely ending the oil and gas industry would “decimate” the economy of the north-east, costing tens of thousands of jobs and preventing a fair and managed transition to renewables.
However Just Transition Secretary Michael Matheson says the oil and gas sector “will continue to have a vital role in ensuring Scotland’s energy security” even as the country moves away from fossil fuels.
He vowed his government would “leave no one behind” and told MSPs that a “transition that puts 70,000 workers into unemployment or increases reliance on imports would not be a just one”.
The SNP minister highlighted the Scottish Government’s £500 million Just Transition Fund and slammed the UK Government’s decision to snub the Scottish Cluster’s bid to develop carbon capture proposals at the Acorn project in Aberdeenshire.
Mr Matheson added this was the “wrong decision” and “one that puts the just transition at risk” in Scotland.
‘Throwing thousands of jobs under the bus’
But in his speech North East MSP Douglas Lumsden accused the SNP-Green coalition of “creating a huge amount of anxiety” in the region he represents.
The Conservative MSP said the debate is an “opportunity for all parties to agree that we need to transition away from oil and gas in a sensible and sustainable way, but without throwing thousands of north-east jobs under the bus”.
He added: “We cannot simply throw this industry over the cliff edge and expect our economy to weather it. It won’t.”
However, several of the MSPs referenced the Tories “Groundhog Day motion”, following recent debates around the same topic in the Scottish Parliament.
But North East Labour MSP Michael Marra said there was “no more important economic issue that this country faces”.
He added: “We should be discussing this time and time again in this chamber”.
Former first minister Alex Salmond attacked his former party last week with damning claims Ms Sturgeon had “kicked the north-east in the teeth”.
In a blistering attack on the party’s opposition to the new oil and gas development, the Alba Party leader claims his successor had failed the region by “allowing Green politicians to effectively run the Scottish Government”.
However, the first minister told us mistakes of the past “won’t be repeated” as she tackled criticism of the SNP’s long-term support for oil and gas workers.
The SNP leader, who recently stated her opposition to new exploration, including the Cambo oil field off Shetland, said she is determined to secure “jobs in the region for the long-term”.