While Rishi Sunak sets out plans to maximise oil and gas, community groups and campaigners in the north-east are keen to make sure there is life after fossil fuels for the region.
From a community cafe owner in Torry, to a Scout leader and university expert, many local people made their views heard at the start of a new inquiry on the future of energy policy.
MSPs met in Aberdeen on Monday to chart a course from fossil fuels to the so-called “just transition” which will protect jobs and income in renewable energy.
It came on the day the prime minister pledged to create new annual oil and gas licensing rounds to boost production and jobs.
We spoke to people as the met MSPs in the city at the heart of Scotland’s energy industry about what they want from the country’s leaders.
The view from Greyhope Bay
Dr Fiona McIntyre is founder of Greyhope Bay, a cafe and community space in Torry, which offers one of the best spots in Scotland to watch dolphins.
The popular site operates without connection to grid power and water and uses alternative hybrid energy and circular rainwater technology.
Speaking to the P&J at the event in Aberdeen Arts Centre, she welcomed the inclusion of local voices.
“Aberdeen needs an identity beyond oil and gas and it needs to recognise what it already has”, Dr McIntyre added.
“That’s not just in terms of the number of jobs created here but the quality of life, the environment that we should be faciliating connection to, and our organisation is being recognised as part of that”.
Rachel Smith, funding and development officer for the North East Scotland Climate Action Network, said the future has to be “wider than oil and gas jobs”.
She said: “Oil and gas jobs haven’t necessarily benefited communities and there’s a lot of communities in Aberdeen that have been really disadvantaged and had very unwelcome developments imposed upon them like Torry.”
Ms Smith added: “The oil and gas sector is very important for Aberdeen and always has been but perhaps it means that less emphasis has been put on other types of jobs, like for example tourism.”
Several community representatives at the event raised concerns over the impact of the energy transition on valued green space within Torry.
Campaigners are fighting against plans to turn one third of St Fitticks Park into an energy transition zone.
‘Torry area being eroded’
Lucy Edwards, committee member for the Earth & Worms community garden, is involved in the campaign to save the popular park.
“It’s a decade long pattern of land in the Torry area being eroded and replaced with infrastructure for oil and gas”, the campaigner said.
“I think a lot of people in Aberdeen don’t feel more prosperous now than we did before the oil boom.”
Paul Gray, from First Elgin Scouts, took his first-hand knowledge of younger people’s views to the event.
He said: “The projects we’ve had have been driven by young people. We’ve just applied – and fortunately received – money to put solar panels in.
“It was the young people that asked why we didn’t have them and why we weren’t going for them.
“They initially asked for wind power but then when we set them a project of looking in to it and seeing why, they said solar panels are the far better thing.”
‘Vested interests have too much say’
Dr Adam Price, Professor of Plant Molecular Genetics at University of Aberdeen, is on the board of North East Scotland Climate Action Network Hub.
He said there is a “real concern” among people within the north-east about “vested interests having too much say in the way we transition”.
“For Scotland in general the transition to low carbon energy is very promising because we have such huge resources”, Dr Price said.
“The real problem is can we do it right because at the moment there is too much emphasis on large companies either greenwashing or large companies extracting wealth from the land without giving it back to communities.”
The prime minister told the P&J on Monday that there will be opposition to his plan for annual licensing rounds to maximise oil and gas.
But the UK Government thinks the move will help secure 200,000 jobs and billions in tax receipts.
Mr Sunak was perhaps thinking of voices like Maggie Chapman’s, the Green MSP for the North East region at Holyrood.
She told us: “It’s a disaster for the north-east.
“We know we need to move away from oil and gas. We know that the climate emergency is happening right now.
“All this will do is repeat the same thing that we’ve been doing for the last 50 years.”
Asked about Mr Sunak’s decision to award new oil and gas licences, Claire Baker, the MSP leading the Scottish Parliament’s committee inquiry, said both governments have set “ambitious climate change targets”.
But she added: “Certainly some of the rhetoric from the UK Government may make that a bit more difficult or change the environment we operate in.”