The Scottish Government’s just transition and employment minister has said the first portion of the £500 million Just Transition Fund aimed at the north east will be opened shortly.
Speaking at the Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) annual conference in Aberdeen on Tuesday, Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work Richard Lochhead said that the fund’s first £20m portion would be opened to expressions of interest on 31 May.
Targeted specifically at the north east and Moray, funding is being made available over ten years to help address the transition challenges faced by the workforce and businesses across the region.
The Fund was first announced in the SNP-Green coalition’s programme for government in September, with £20m committed in the budget for 2022-23.
Outlining its role, Mr Lochhead said: “We will be taking a more innovative approach and offering a variety of funding streams, from capital grants to investments designed to generate returns and a blended approach of the two.”
Notably, the fund is not exclusively aimed at the energy industry and will be used to support projects from across a range of sectors.
The first portion of the Fund has been developed in partnership with stakeholders across the north east and Moray through a series of ministerial and official-led engagements, according to the gov.scot site.
“From a government perspective, you’ve got to transition as a government and across the wider public sector to being a partner of the private sector, developing the commercial expertise to make these deals – ensuring that we are moving into a space of being a financier of the transition and not just simply a grant funder,” Mr Lochhead told delegates.
“We will be publishing guidance to support those bidding into funds, and our intention is to work with those who are successful in the initial round to build the best possible investments in capital programs,” he added.
He said it was vital that the fund “engage, involve and empower” communities across the region and that £1m would be ring-fenced to directly fund communities who participate, allowing them to design and vote on the interventions they want to see taken forward.
Meanwhile, a wider-reaching Just Transition Plan charting Scotland’s shift away from North Sea oil and gas has been delayed until the autumn, with Scottish government ministers saying more time was needed to gather evidence and take account of the UK government’s recently released British Energy Security Strategy.
Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin – who last week wrote to the government to ask about progress on support for oil and gas workers making the transition to green jobs – said she would be encouraging organisations, businesses, communities and individuals to apply.
Ms Martin said: “This is an issue I’m passionate about and my recent report into the challenges workers feels exist in helping them move from oil and gas to renewables is clear.
“The more investment that can be made will be crucial in the years ahead, ensuring we listen carefully to both the people and sectors most impacted by the changes occurring across the energy sector.”