Scottish Secretary David Mundell has vowed to ensure the Brexit negotiations leave the embattled North Sea industry in the “strongest possible position”.
The Tory cabinet minister also stressed the importance of viewing the UK’s imminent departure from the European Union as an opportunity.
And he hailed Theresa May’s commitment to make the oil and gas sector a key component of her government’s industrial strategy.
Mr Mundell’s interventions came, prior to his arrival in Aberdeen to meet senior industry figures as part of the UK Government’s preparations for the EU withdrawal negotiations.
They will discuss sector priorities, in order to ensure Scotland’s interests are represented at the table.
Before his visit, Mr Mundell told the Press and Journal: “It’s such a specialist sector. That’s why we have to engage with them to fully understand what the practical impact will be.
“We want, as part of the Brexit negotiations, to leave the North Sea industry in the strongest possible position.
“Obviously, other many oil and gas centres are outwith Europe….the view may be, for example, that while they (the negotiations) are important, the work that is going to be done by Liam Fox in the new department for international trade may be equally or more important.
“I am interested to hear where the balance of the industry lies within the EU compared to the rest of the world.”
He added he did not want to pre-judge the discussions, but expected labour force issues – particularly the ability of people to come to the UK to carry out specialist jobs – to be raised.
He explained: “Clearly UK organisations will want to make sure they are able to trade within the EU.
“We have got to see Brexit as an opportunity. Yes, there are issues and concerns.
“Nothing, in my view, that has happened since June 23 is a surprise, but now it’s a fact, we have to deal with it and we have to look for the opportunities that can come from it.”
Mr Mundell, who is Scotland’s only Tory MP, said he would also be interested to hear whether the industry believes it better to proceed on the basis of continuity – in terms of regulations for instance – or take the opportunity to bring in changes.
He described the oil industry as one of the most adaptable historically, suggesting it would once again be able to make the necessary adjustments.
Asked whether the UK Government would continue to support the sector under the new regime, Mr Mundell insisted he was “absolutely clear” about Mrs May’s commitment.
Fears were raised when she scrapped the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) upon succeeding David Cameron.
But the Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP said he thought the new arrangements would work better.
The brief now comes under the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy, led by Greg Clark.
One of his first acts as business and energy secretary was to visit Aberdeen and talk directly with oil and gas industry representatives.
Mr Mundell added: “Mrs May was very clear. This was a change of government. It wasn’t just a cabinet reshuffle.
“She believes she has brought forward a structure that is more able to support the industry as part of the development of an industrial strategy for the UK, of which the industry will be a key component.
“I think the new arrangements are more fitting for the industry in terms of ensuring its importance.”