Theresa May will today announce UK Government backing for a multi-million pound Aberdeen underwater engineering hub to help the oil industry diversify into green energy.
The prime minister will say the initiative will create new jobs and help businesses thrive when she travels to the city for the Scottish Conservative conference.
The announcement will be a key part of Mrs May’s speech as she heads north with her leadership in turmoil and large sections of her party in despair over her handling of Brexit.
Scotland’s energy sector has been making plans for the underwater engineering hub as a way of transferring expertise, built up in the oil and gas sector, into technologies such as carbon capture.
The UK Government said it would help the nation become a “go-to destination” for subsea engineering, which in the UK already supports 45,000 jobs and 1,000 companies, 60% of which are based north of the border.
In her speech at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, Mrs May will praise the “outstanding contribution” of the North Sea oil and gas sector, in “incredibly challenging” conditions, to the UK economy.
She will say the UK Government has supported the industry as the oil price has fluctuated and argue that being a United Kingdom with the world’s fifth largest economy had provided the “broad shoulders” to do that.
“Today I can announce that the UK Government will back plans for a new Global Underwater Hub right here in Aberdeen,” she will say.
“It would bring areas of excellence in underwater technology together under a single commercial vision – creating jobs, boosting the local economy and cementing Aberdeen’s place as an energy hub for offshore and renewables.
“It would help established businesses thrive and create new opportunities as the world makes the shift towards clean growth; upporting industry, helping us in the fight against climate change and creating new skilled jobs and opportunities for people to get on.”
The hub would bring together industry and academia from across the UK to focus on developing subsea robotics, remotely operated underwater vehicles and maritime support vessels.
The UK has a 40 per cent share of the global market in underwater engineering and it has been estimated the industry could be worth more than £100 billion globally by 2035.
The move was welcomed by Oil and Gas UK chief executive Deirdre Michie who said it was recognition of the industry’s role in “enabling the transition to a low carbon economy”.
Trevor Garlick, the industry champion who is leading the development of the project, said: “The Hub will help UK companies win more business overseas, attract inward investment and develop the skills and technologies needed to increase our share of a growing global market.”
And Andy Samuel, chief executive of the Oil and Gas Authority added: “This is a great example of how the oil and gas sector’s world-class supply chain can contribute to a number of different industries, including those enabling a lower-carbon economy.”
Today will also see the comeback of Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson after six months of maternity leave.
With Nicola Sturgeon calling for a second independence referendum, Ms Davidson will return to the political fray by calling on Scots to put constitutional divisions behind them.
She will say: “Last week, the SNP spent their entire conference focusing on independence, more constitutional division and a chaotic plan to ditch the pound.
“By contrast, we want to use our conference to talk about how we can deliver for Scotland in the here and now.”
Last night SNP MSP for Aberdeen North, Kirsty Blackman, said her party welcomed investment in subsea technology.
But she said Mrs May’s announcement “pales into insignificance given the UK government has fleeced the North Sea to the tune of £500 billion”.