Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop has hinted that an oil and gas “transition training fund” could be relaunched to help offshore workers who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.
A £12 million scheme for staff affected by the 2014 to 2016 downturn in the oil and gas sector helped 4,272 people over three years, before closing in March last year.
It offered support with grants for retraining or getting accreditation or certification to assist in new employment in the energy industry, engineering or, sometimes, teaching.
Ms Hyslop has now signalled that it could soon be revived, amid fears that tens of thousands of North Sea workers could lose their jobs as a result of a price slump and the coronavirus crisis.
The economy secretary revealed the move after Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin urged her to bring back the initiative in an exchange at Holyrood.
Ms Hyslop said: “I can reassure the member that only yesterday the deputy first minister and Richard Lochhead and Jamie Hepburn met with the chairs and chief executives of Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council to discuss support and training required for what will be a substantial labour market response.
“Clearly regional support for regional jobs must be identified as a key priority, and I think in the north-east that most definitely is in the area she described.”
Last week the Scottish Government announced that a £62 million Energy Transition Fund would support the sector over the next five years.
Ms Hyslop also said on Thursday that Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse was now chairing a “refocused” version of the Oil and Gas and Energy Transition Strategic Leadership Group, which meets monthly with Oil and Gas UK, the Oil and Gas Authority, and trade unions.
Meanwhile, after being quizzed on decommissioning contracts by north-east MSP Lewis Macdonald and Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart, the minister vowed to work to help ensure that Scottish ports can cash in on the sector in future.
“Clearly it is absolutely essential that we position ourselves so we can get those contracts that are available in relation to decommissioning, and that is something that, as the relatively new economy secretary, I am determined to do,” she said.