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Green candidate brands Scottish leader oil and gas comments ‘silly’ at north-east hustings event

Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce brought together all the major parties standing for election in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire at a hustings breakfast even
Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce brought together all the major parties standing for election in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire at a hustings breakfast even

A Scottish Green candidate running for Aberdeen City Council said the leader of his party, Patrick Harvie, was “silly” for having claimed only those on the hard right of the political spectrum supported the oil and gas industry.

Guy Ingerson, a hopeful for the party in the George Street and Harbour ward, told an audience at a hustings event that Mr Harvie’s view – revealed in a radio interview  late last year –  was “not the case”, and that “he should know better”.

But he added that the best way government can support the north east oil and gas industry was by “assisting it to wind down, and to decommission and support people into new, far more sustainable jobs.”

Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce brought together all the major parties standing for election in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire at a special hustings breakfast event. <br />Photo Kenny Elrick

The candidate was speaking at a hustings organised by the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC) focusing on business priorities for the region ahead of local authority elections in May.

It welcomed a panel representing each of the main parties including Mr Ingerson for the Greens, as well as Barney Crockett for Labour,  Ryan Houghton for the Conservatives, Alexander McLellan for the SNP and for the Liberal Democrats, Ian Yuill.

It was chaired by The Press and Journal’s own award winning political reporter, Adele Merson.

Picture of Adele Merson chairing the event.<br />Photo by Kenny Elrick

Candidates answered unscripted questions from the audience of chamber members.

A question on how panelists would support the oil and gas industry prompted the SNP’s Mr McLellan to say the industry is “incredibly important to our economy” and  insisted there was a “need for continued oil and gas production for domestic use”, adding the SNP is “not talking about switching it off with the click of my fingers”.

He said: “The oil and gas industry is incredibly important here and certainly myself and my colleagues will speak up for that.”

Mr Crockett observed he was “not sure if” his SNP rival’s words were  “totally in line with the national view of the SNP there” but said he was “pleased to hear it”.

Picture of Barney Crockett. Photo by Kenny Elrick 

The SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been less keen on the industry than her north-east party colleagues and has stated that, along with her Green party coalition partners, she would prefer to accelerate the transition towards renewable and low-carbon energy and has opposed investment in new North Sea oil and gas fields such as Cambo.

The chamber used the event to publish its local election business priorities manifesto entitled “get to work”. It set out a number of demands including a push for “ambitious reform” of the rates system of business tax, a ban on the implementation of any proposed workplace parking levy, and to reject calls for a windfall tax on oil and gas firms.

It further called for the local authority to “deliver on investment commitments” such as the city centre master plan and redevelopment of Aberdeen beachfront, adding “there is no room for pettiness preventing the vision from being turned into reality.

At the event there was some dispute over the pedestrianisation of Union Street, a key aspect of the ruling Conservative/Labour coalition’s £150 million masterplan proposals which was opposed by the SNP and the Lib Dems in order to ensure access was maintained by buses and taxis.

Picture of Ryan Houghton. Photo Kenny Elrick

Mr Houghton said a survey of 7,000 people said they wanted “cafe culture, open spaces, a pleasant environment and pedestrianisation”.

“Unfortunately that has not gone full throttle because some some people decided to hesitate on that. I think that is a great shame because I think businesses supported it.

“We had all the property agents in Aberdeen, the trade bodies, coming forward and saying we back the vision, get on with it and get it done.”

Mr McLellan said the SNP group was not against the master plan and had brought forward a number of their own proposals that needed more consideration including green spaces and potentially a rapid transit system linking the beach and the city centre.

“We’re not against the city’s master plan, we’re not trying to slow it down at all. What we are proposing is to build on the Union Street central design.”

AGCC policy adviser Fergus Mutch introduced the panel. Photo by Kenny Elrick

Fergus Mutch, policy adviser to AGCC, said: “It was a great opportunity for our members to put their questions directly to candidates on some of the big issues facing Aberdeen and Grampian.

“Top of the agenda was how we deliver jobs and prosperity through energy transition, how we transform our city and town centres and how we scale up infrastructure and unlock the funding required.

“Overall there was a broad consensus on a fair number of our chamber manifesto priorities – and we hope to see the newly formed administrations delivering on these after 5thMay.”

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