Nicola Sturgeon has been told by a north-east council chief that her position on oil and gas has left the region’s economy struggling to bounce back.
Andy Kille, leader of Aberdeenshire Council, highlighted the first minister’s recent comments on the controversial Cambo field as “exacerbating the problem”.
He spoke out after we reported that the north-east was the only part of Scotland not returning to pre-pandemic employment levels.
A leading economist warned the jobs data for the region was “worrying”, and suggested the problem was linked to slow growth in oil and gas services.
Mr Kille, a Conservative councillor for Fraserburgh and District, pointed to Ms Sturgeon’s recent decision to express her opposition to the Cambo oil field development, west of Shetland, and her government’s more general shifting stance towards the North Sea in recent months.
He said: “This is a resilient area and has long been the engine room of the Scottish economy, however uncertainties for the future of the oil and gas industry, such as the first minister’s recent position on the Cambo oil field, are exacerbating the problem.
“A just transition to a greener energy sector does need the leadership of the oil and gas industry and they are paying a vital part already.
“Simply switching off the industry would be hugely counter-productive to that transitional aim.
“I do believe these uncertainties will be contributing to the difference.”
Last week, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs the shift away from oil and gas should happen “as quickly as possible”.
The first minister also said she did not now think “we can continue to give the go-ahead to new oilfields”.
Official payroll figures for last month put the number of employees in the north-east at 97.3% of the rate in October 2019.
This compares to 99.9% in eastern Scotland, 100.4% in the Highlands and islands, 100.8% in southern Scotland, 100.9% in west central Scotland, and 101.1% across the UK.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are already investing in the sector’s net zero transformation, including through our Energy Transition Fund, which we recently expanded to £75 million.
“Our £500m Just Transition Fund – which we have called on the UK Government multiple times to match – will support the north-east and Moray as one of Scotland’s centres of excellence for the transition to a net zero economy, with our investment supporting transformation across the region.
Just Transition Plan
“In spring 2022, we will deliver our first Just Transition Plan as part of a refreshed Energy Strategy, setting out how the economic and social impacts of the transition will be managed.
“This will have co-design at its heart, meaning those who stand to be most impacted by the transition to net zero are given a voice in determining their future.
“To ensure a just transition for the oil and gas sector – one which supports good green jobs, skills and expertise – we are undertaking a programme of work and analysis to better understand Scotland’s energy requirements as we transition to net zero, ensuring an approach that supports and protects our energy security and our highly skilled workforce whilst meeting our climate obligations.”