The Greens have been accused of causing “alarm” among North Sea oil and gas workers after controversial claims about the future of the industry.
Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie was heavily criticised last week after suggesting only the “hard right” now support new oil and gas extraction.
Speaking in the wake of Shell’s decision to withdraw from the controversial Cambo scheme off the coast of Shetland, he claimed the Conservatives were now “isolated” on the future of the sector.
‘Dangerous to demonise an industry’
Tess White, who represents the north-east for the Tories, told MSPs it is “dangerous to demonise an industry, particularly when the financial and emotional wellbeing of workers and communities in my region is at risk”.
Her remarks came as MSPs debated the so-called “just transition” to net zero in Holyrood, with SNP minister Richard Lochhead promising the delivery of a “green jobs bonanza”.
Ms White said “energy sector workers have listened to language about oil and gas from this SNP-Green coalition government with alarm”.
The Conservative MSP added: “For Patrick Harvie, a Scottish Government minister, with a ministerial car and a salary to match, to suggest that only those on the ‘hard right’ support oil and gas extraction is, quite frankly, insulting to workers in the sector.
“Patrick Harvie should try telling that to the engineer who bought a house for his family in Ellon, only to be laid off – he can’t afford to pay his mortgage.
“To gloat about an exploration project hitting the skids – when that project could create 1,000 jobs – is disgraceful.”
‘Oil and gas workers deserve our respect’
However, Green MSP Mark Ruskell said the UK policy of “maximum economic recovery of oil and gas” does not assist a just transition and instead “postpones action, drags investment away from renewables and creates a future cliff edge for workers”.
He said: “The oil and gas corporations have for decades funded climate denial so it’s no wonder that recent polling shows the majority of the public do not trust them to lead the just transition.
“But the oil and gas workers deserve our respect, our support and our solidarity for the huge contributions they’ve made to our energy needs since the 1970s.
“For years they have faced uncertainty in a boom and bust sector and despite an eyewatering £13.6 billion of tax subsidy donated to the oil and gas sector by the UK Government since the Paris Agreement was signed, there continue to be major job losses.”
‘Green jobs revolution’
SNP energy minister Richard Lochhead said the move towards “net zero” is “not about simple and easy on and off switches for any particular sector or industry”.
He described the oil and gas sector as having an “essential role to play in our transition to net zero”, as he promised new job opportunities in what he described as “an extraordinary green jobs revolution”.
Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur, criticised the Scottish Government for failing to provide the detail on how it will lead such a move away from fossil fuels.
He pointed to a report published by the Climate Change Committee on Tuesday which calls for the Scottish Government to publish, as soon as possible, a “detailed and transparent quantitative breakdown” of how proposed emissions reductions will be achieved.
Mr McArthur said the Greens jobs revolution promised by Alex Salmond when he was first minister was a “talk that has never been walked”.