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North-east jobs at risk over calls to end oil and gas with ‘flick of the switch’

Skilled jobs will be axed unless Holyrood addresses the growing belief that oil and gas can end with a “flick of the switch”, an industry leader warned.

Katy Heidenreich, supply chain and operations director at Oil & Gas UK, urged MSPs to ensure the transition to a low carbon economy is “managed”, or risk local livelihoods.

The SNP’s co-operation agreement with the Greens in government, combined with the ongoing controversy over the development of the Cambo oilfield, have raised concerns about the the Scottish Government’s position on the sector’s future.

Recent speeches by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon signalled a shift in policy on oil and gas, as leaders respond to the climate emergency.

Ms Heidenreich warned a rapid withdrawal of support would prove counterproductive, costing Scotland the skills it needs to reach its climate targets.

Katy Heidenreich

Speaking at Holyrood’s economy committee on Wednesday, she said: “We are working to understand what skills are required in order for us to help the country meet its net zero ambition.

‘Absolutely vital’

“What is clear is that the skills that we have in the oil and gas industry today will be vital to delivering our ambition to ensure that we stay on track with meeting our emissions reduction targets, and that we remain on track to achieve our target of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030.

“I think what is absolutely vital is we have that managed transition, (and) that we correct this perception that this can just be a flick of the switch.

“Because that will lead to job losses, seeing jobs going overseas, see us offshoring our emissions.”

I think what is absolutely vital is we have that managed transition, (and) that we correct this perception that this can just be a flick of the switch.”

She added: “So I think continued reinforcement of the government’s support for the vital skills that the people of the oil and gas industry have, both now in terms of delivering energy security, and in meeting both our own industry, and the country’s, net zero ambitions, around reducing emissions from other industries.”

Later in parliament, Energy Minister Richard Lochhead was quizzed on support for oil and gas workers who are seeking to move into low carbon sectors.

north-east fund slavery
Gillian Martin MSP

Aberdeenshire East SNP MSP Gillian Martin asked him about certification and accreditation that had traditionally been paid for by oil and gas firms.

Training costs

“In the past employers have largely picked up the tab for this training, but many workers looking to transition into other low emission energy sectors tell me that they are having to find the money themselves to retrain,” she said.

“For many, these sums are simply not affordable.”

She asked what routes could be investigated to use publicly funded institutions, such as North East Scotland College, to deliver training and quickly develop courses.

Mr Lochhead said: “We are working with north-east Scotland organisations, who in turn are working with local further and higher education institutions, to make sure that the right skills are available to people who are moving out of fossil fuel sectors, into decarbonised sectors.”

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