Axing support for North Sea oil and gas would “cripple” the Scottish economy overnight, the Conservatives have warned.
Aberdeen Central candidate Douglas Lumsden spoke out after the Scottish Greens said it had been “absolutely reckless” for the UK Government to confirm it would sanction new offshore exploration.
Patrick Harvie, the co-leader of the Greens, used an election campaign visit to the north-east to call for the transition away from fossil fuels to be accelerated.
Extensive focus group and opinion poll research carried out by Survation to inform our election coverage revealed last week that preparations for the economic recovery and the energy transition were key issues for north-east voters.
Last month, speculation was growing that the UK Government could ban new North Sea exploration as part of its efforts to help tackle climate change, with oil and gas extraction accounting for 3.5% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.
However, ministers stopped short of ruling out future licensing rounds when they confirmed a long-awaited oil and gas sector deal.
Instead, they said that future licensing auctions would be subjected to far greater scrutiny through the introduction of a “climate compatibility checkpoint”.
During his trip to Aberdeen, Mr Harvie said: “The UK Government is absolutely reckless in its decision to invest further public subsidy in exploration for new oil and gas.
The UK Government is absolutely reckless in its decision to invest further public subsidy in exploration for new oil and gas.”
“We are witnessing climate breakdown all across the planet, so we don’t have time to ignore the problem.”
He added: “Workers need certainty and alternative jobs, not to be left dependent on an industry in its dying days.
“Other parties have suggested that a transition is underway, but you can’t call it a transition if you keep throwing money at an industry until it closes.
“Our future and the future of jobs depend on starting the transition to low-carbon alternatives now so we don’t repeat the mistakes seen in mining communities, Ravenscraig or Silicon Glen.”
Mr Lumsden, the co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, responded by warning of an economic disaster in the north-east if support for the sector was withdrawn at a stroke.
“The industry is already acting – the UK Government is working with businesses to invest up to £16 billion into the oil and gas sector through the North Sea Transition Deal,” he said.
“This will set early targets for the industry to reduce emissions and invest in carbon capture and renewables technology to support 40,000 jobs.
“The Scottish Conservatives fought for this commitment which is included in our specific north-east manifesto – something the Greens nor any other party have done.
We need to work with the industry to help them transition, retaining our high value jobs and skills, not pump the brakes and effectively cripple the engine room of the Scottish economy overnight.”
“We need to work with the industry to help them transition, retaining our high value jobs and skills, not pump the brakes and effectively cripple the engine room of the Scottish economy overnight.
“The Greens are now a platform for independence rather than the environment and don’t care about the importance of the oil and gas industry to the north-east.
“The Scottish Conservatives understand the north-east and what needs to happen to recover from the pandemic.”