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Rishi Sunak makes north-east offshore jobs promise with new annual oil and gas law

Exclusive: The prime minister claims 200,000 jobs will be protected as part of a plan set to be confirmed in Tuesday’s King’s Speech.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced Track 2 funding for the Scottish Cluster during a visit to St Fergus, near Peterhead, in July.
Rishi Sunak, in Aberdeenshire this summer, is making more plans for offshore energy. Image: PA.

The prime minister is drawing up laws which he says will protect 200,000 offshore jobs and support the north-east economy.

Rishi Sunak is creating annual oil and gas licensing rounds, written into legislation to boost production.

He claims this regular focus on developing fields in the North Sea will help the UK during moves towards more renewable sources.

But he admits there will be opposition.

Holyrood comes to Aberdeen

Mr Sunak outlined his plan to the P&J as a Scottish Parliament committee prepared to start an inquiry in Aberdeen today on the future of energy.

MSPs probing efforts to transition from fossil fuels met industry figures in the city-based session.

MSPs are coming to Aberdeen Town House. Image: DC Thomson.

Mr Sunak meanwhile says he wants a more prosperous future.

“That’s why today, ahead of the King’s Speech later this week, we’re announcing new measures to tap North Sea oil and gas with annual licensing rounds, that will make the UK more energy independent and support the country as we transition to net zero,” he added.

“Now, I know there will be voices in opposition against this but I am convinced that this is the best approach for our country today.”

‘Billions’ of tax receipts

The legislation will require the North Sea Transition Authority to invite applications for new production licences every year.

The UK Government thinks this will help secure 200,000 jobs and billions in tax receipts.

However, UK energy secretary Claire Coutinho admitted on Monday that the plan might not directly bring household bills down.

The licensing rounds are supposed to support lower carbon emissions and will be tested on the shift to “net zero”. The term describes the ambition to balance the amount of harmful gasses with the amount created.

Previous controversial decisions for licences include approval for the Rosebank field off Shetland. Twenty-seven licences were granted by the regulator last week.

The government argues oil and gas is vital to UK energy needs, even beyond the net zero target in 2050.

Rishi Sunak during a previous visit to Aberdeenshire. Image: Shutterstock.

Mr Sunak told the P&J: “Home-grown energy is vital in bolstering our energy independence.

“It will reduce our reliance on unpredictable hostile states. It will boost investment and growth. And it will support our transition to net zero in the long run.

“This week we will be taking the tough long-term decisions that are right for the future of our country.

“New oil and gas licensing will ensure we are doing exactly that, moving us closer to energy independence, powering Britain from Britain, so that we can build more secure, more prosperous future for everyone.”

Mr Sunak shocked critics and some supporters by watering down some of the targets and routes to that 2050 target in September.

Stephen Flynn hopes Tuesday’s King’s Speech is Rishi Sunak’s last. Image: PA.

It was described as a form of ultimate denial on a global crisis. And SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn claimed the prime minister had “thrown in the towel”.

The same voices are likely to be angered by the new plan today.

The Tories trashed the economy – and they deserve to be booted out of government.

– Stephen Flynn

Looking towards Tuesday’s speech on the government’s plans for the year in the Commons, Mr Flynn, who is MP for Aberdeen South, said it should all be about the cost of living.

He wants a £400 energy bill rebate, mortgage interest tax relief and action on food prices.

And he repeated calls for the permanent transfer of powers to hold an independence referendum.

‘Vitally important’ to north-east

“This King’s Speech will almost certainly be Rishi Sunak’s first and last,” he said on Sunday.

“The Tories trashed the economy and they deserve to be booted out of government.”

Today, MSPs meet in Aberdeen Town House to discuss energy policy.

The special meeting by Holyrood’s economy committee will also take in a visit to the new South Harbour.

Convener Claire Baker, a Labour MSP, said: This inquiry is all about the vitally important Just Transition for the North East and Moray – so it’s only right that we are beginning our evidence sessions in the area.

“This is a chance for the Committee to hear directly from those in the area about the coming transition, and what support is needed to make it a success.”

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