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Opinion: Dear Tories…Your ‘North Sea bit’ isn’t done yet

North Sea workers arrive on platform by helicopter
North Sea job cuts have risen to 7,500, according to Oil and Gas UK

Last week, along with many of you reading this, I started my day at the Oil and Gas UK breakfast briefing on their latest economic report.

I listened to the presentations and discussions and took away the crystal clear message that exploration needs a real boost, and that can be done through strong action from the Treasury to introduce robust incentives for new activity.

The sector heard it and read it in clear black and white that an annual decline of 30% in the development of wells indicates more support is needed.

This week however, the oil and gas sector has been near dismissed by the very same Government they need the support from, because the Treasury seems to think they’ve already done their bit.

The Tories need to wake up and realise that this industry isn’t a political plate they can pick up and spin for attention when it suits them – this sector needs continuous attention and support to get through one of the most challenging phases in its recent history.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury stated without any apology or empathy that it is unlikely that the oil and gas will get a mention in the Chancellor’s autumn statement. That statement of course would indicate that Philip Hammond thinks there’s an element of “job done.”

Whilst it’s true there were welcomed and long overdue scraping of petroleum revenue tax and halving of the supplementary charge, the Chancellor doesn’t just get to close his red box and pop off home without any further action.

Businesses and industries that feed massively into our economy and support hundreds of thousands of jobs deserve more consideration than that.

Oil and Gas as an industry has paid over £300 billion into the UK Treasury since drilling began. The contributions have been largely consistent and bolstered our economy at home and internationally. The SNP recognise that as does everyone working in the sector.

Unfortunately, the Government department with the opportunity to boost this industry seems to have been busying itself with other things.

Whilst Philip Hammond and David Gauke have been patting their predecessors on the back and self-proclaiming themselves as supporters of the oil and gas sector, businesses within it have been putting the real work and difficult decision making in.

The cost cutting and efficiency improvements made over the past year has been impressive, as I have met many companies working together more and reviewing their processes constantly.

But these mass reviews have also resulted in painful numbers of job losses, not help by the fact that new exploration has decreased.

When we stand up and call on the UK Government to support this industry we are not primarily talking about the wells and infrastructure – we are talking about the people going to work who need to support themselves and their families, and we are talking about the people who have had their livelihood taken away.

Those are the people who will know when the job is done- and those are the people we need to listen to.

As the effective opposition party in Westminster the SNP strive not only to hold the Tory Government to account, but also to try and make them see just how damaging some of their policies and inaction is to people living in this country.

Yesterday though it became clear that not only does the UK Government oppose and dismiss questions and statements put forward by the majority of Scotland’s MPs, but they are now dismissing the oil and gas industry too.

 

Callum McCaig is an Aberdeen South MP.

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