Humza Yousaf will make a first big push as SNP leader to cement support for his party in the north-east as he announces an extra £25 million to help with the shift toward renewable energy.
The new first minister will announce the investment today from the Scottish Government’s dedicated fund aimed at supporting the move away from oil and gas.
When Nicola Sturgeon was in power, the SNP committed to spending £500 million over the next decade to ensure the move away from fossil fuels goes smoothly.
The plan to transform Aberdeen from a hub for oil and gas jobs into a key city for green energy has been dubbed a “just transition”.
But during the recent SNP leadership campaign his rivals competing for the top job shared doubts over their party’s moves to ditch the fossil fuel industry so quickly.
Central to the government’s approach on tackling climate change has been their power-sharing deal with the Scottish Greens, who are strongly against any future North Sea drilling.
Highland MSP and SNP rebel Fergus Ewing branded the environmental party “fringe extremists” who should not be in government in an astonishing attack over the weekend.
Environmentally-friendly policies an ‘absolute priority’ for new first minister
The Inverness and Nairn nationalist claimed the Greens want to “dismantle” the economy and put workers across rural Scotland out of a job.
Ahead of a visit to Aberdeen Harbour, Mr Yousaf told us environmentally-friendly policies remained his “absolute priority”, but said the transition to renewables must be “fair for everyone”.
The country’s national investment bank, which is owned by the government, will be expected to dish out the £25 million to projects aiming to support clean energy jobs.
The latest round of investment for the next financial year comes on top of £50 million which has already been spent.
So far much of the cash allocated has been spent with the aim of retraining oil and gas workers and investing in renewables projects to create new jobs.
Mr Yousaf said: “Delivering on our climate obligations is an absolute priority – but so too is our unwavering commitment to ensuring the journey to net-zero is fair and just for everyone.
Just transition for north-east
“The north-east has long been known as the oil and gas capital of Europe. It can now become the net-zero capital of the world.
“The just transition fund for the north-east and Moray is already helping communities seize these opportunities.
“By using a portion of the fund to support the Scottish Investment Bank, we can leverage further investment in the region to ensure a fair and just transition.”
Mr Yousaf unveiled his top team last week and he has tasked rising star Màiri McAllan with overseeing the country’s shift away from oil and gas.
Elected just two years ago, she will have a tough job on her plate and how she manages concerns over the future of the energy sector could prove key to the SNP’s future fortunes in the north-east.
Business chiefs in the region were left bitterly disappointed earlier this year when a bid by Aberdeen and Peterhead for a low-tax green freeport was unsuccessful.
North Sea firms have also regularly criticised the windfall tax imposed on them by the UK Government in the wake of multinational energy companies reaping record profits.