It’s been a tough few months for those working in Scotland’s oil and gas industry – but yesterday they finally received some good news.
The decision by the High Court to throw out a case brought by activists claiming that UK Government support for North Sea oil and gas was unlawful will have brought relief to people across the north-east.
The judge’s ruling proves that those sounding the death knell for the industry after Shell pulled out of the Cambo project, in the wake of the First Minister’s voicing her opposition to it, were premature.
This is not a binary argument about being pro or anti the fight against climate change. It’s possible – in fact I’d argue logical – to support both yesterday’s ruling and action to save the planet.
‘Must respond to climate emergency’
My party and I are fully behind a just transition to net zero – we recognise that the world must respond to the climate emergency. But the word “just” is key here, particularly in relation to oil and gas.
Yes, Scotland and the UK must move away from our traditional reliance on fossil fuels but simply turning off the taps in the North Sea would be economic madness and counterproductive in environmental terms.
The industry supports up to 100,000 jobs, many of those here in the north-east, so livelihoods and the local economy would be shattered if the industry closed down overnight before sufficient jobs in the renewables sector are in place to plug the gap. And, for now, they are simply not there.
The SNP – under pressure from their extremist coalition partners, the Scottish Greens – have chosen to turn their back on the north-east and an industry they once heralded as the foundation of their economic case for independence.
But the Scottish Conservatives will never abandon the people and communities of the north-east.
‘Environmental case’ for oil and gas
Unlike the First Minister, we recognise that there is an environmental case, as well as an economic one, for the industry continuing.
We know that the renewables sector can’t yet support Scotland’s energy needs, so the knock-on effect of ceasing oil and gas extraction here is that we would need to import more of it from the likes of Russia and the Middle East, increasing our carbon footprint dramatically.
Scotland needs energy security, not an over-reliance on unstable foreign nations.
So we need to focus on reducing demand over decades while protecting jobs, rather than taking knee-jerk decisions. That’s what this positive court ruling recognises.