Finance and economy secretary Kate Forbes said she does not believe Scotland’s economic recovery would result in the loss of North Sea oil and gas jobs, as warned by the Tories.
Ms Forbes, speaking for the first time in her expanded role as economy secretary, said the Scottish Government’s just transition policy from fossil fuels would create new roles as well as support those in the oil and gas industry from being left behind.
The SNP MSP lead a debate in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday where she outlined plans for recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
She unveiled funding for local authority areas kept in level two restrictions, including Dundee, as well as the taxi trade and cultural and arts sectors.
“Unholy coalition” fears
Scottish Conservative economy spokesperson Liz Smith warned the country’s economic recovery would be subject to a “looming disaster” should the SNP go into “formal coalition” with the Scottish Greens.
She said: “The unholy coalition between the SNP and the Scottish Greens…is much more to do with independence than it is economic growth.
“(It) could be a looming disaster for the Scottish economy.
“Firstly, the Scottish Greens plans for a universal basic income could cost the economy £58 billion in one year alone.”
She added: “And we know that the Greens want to completely kill-off the oil and gas sector… putting at risk 100,000 jobs in a sector worth £6 billion to the Scottish economy.
“Patrick Harvie said ending oil and gas production within a decade would be the price of coalition with the SNP.
“Yet there is little detail when it comes to outlining the collective effect and effective cost of these policy commitments when it comes to peoples jobs an the economic welfare of Scotland.”
Ms Forbes said she did not believe any jobs were at risk in the oil and gas sector and that she “unashamedly” believes the “just transition” from fossil fuels would save current employment, as well as create new roles for the future.
“Window of opportunity”
Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater said: “We have a window of opportunity now to build new industries, to plan and create this new economy, to ensure the jobs are there when we need them to be.
“Pretending we can keep extracting North Sea oil and gas indefinitely is climate change denial, as well as a denial of economic reality.”
She added: “Oil companies have known about climate change since 1977 and despite that, have lobbied relentlessly for subsidies and handouts while routinely paying their executives salaries in 10-20 million pounds a year.
“The UK Government’s North Sea transition deal will see billions more handed to these companies to support the development of technologies they hope will allow them to continue to dig up and burn fossil fuels and dodge their responsibilities…good money after bad.”
Up to £12 million is to be made available to businesses in council areas kept in level two lockdown restrictions.
Dundee City Council was one of thirteen local authorities told on Tuesday it would not be moving to level 0ne measures, meaning shops, pubs and businesses will be subject to firmer restrictions for several more weeks.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the decision was made to keep the areas — which have a combined population of 2.3 million people — under stricter rules was a result of the higher case rates each had.
The funding announcement was made during a debate on the country’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Finance and economy cabinet secretary Kate Forbes said £12 million extra would be made available, as well as announcing further money for the taxi industry and additional money for the performing arts centres and cultural sectors.
She said: “The Scottish Government owes a great debt of gratitude to everybody who put the needs of the country ahead of their own financial or business interests and I would like to thank you. Your livelihoods have been on the line for over a year. The essential restrictions have saved lives, but not without a cost.
“That is why supporting businesses has rightly been a priority for us and will continue to be so. Businesses in Scotland have directly benefitted from £3.6 billion in support – more than a third of total COVID-19 funding.
“We have announced up to a further £62 million for taxi drivers across Scotland and up to £12 million for businesses in level two areas to ensure they have support as we continue to keep the virus under control.
“I am determined we will push forward with an ambitious agenda to drive recovery and transform our economy. To do that I am offering an open invitation to anybody who wants to play their part in rebuilding our country.
“We must unashamedly use the experience, expertise and ingenuity of businesses, trade unions and workforces to deliver greater, greener and fairer prosperity. We want to work in partnership with the entrepreneurs and thinkers, the job creators and the hard workers.
“Our vision is nothing short of economic transformation – this has to be a national endeavour.”
International tourism businesses ‘need more’
Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie called on the Scottish Government to stop “blaming” Westminster and called for more support for businesses in his North East Fife constituency dependent on tourism from countries including the USA and China.
Fife moved into level one lockdown measures on Tuesday, and Ms Forbes said there would be support for businesses and companies dependent on international travel but no further consequential funding from the UK Government for that issue was being provided.
Scottish Labour finance spokesperson Daniel Johnson said the Scottish Government must lay out “clear and measurable” targets for our economic recovery.
He said: “We need bold action to achieve economic recovery but we cannot go back to how things were. As we rebuild and recover, we must renew and improve our economy so that it works for all.
“We must strive to eliminate inequality, to provide high wage high productivity jobs; to create an investment led economy where prosperity is generated and retained here in Scotland. A cooperative economy where everyone has a stake.
“These are measurable things and so we must set clear targets and report against them. We call on the Scottish Government to do just that.”