Union leaders demand oil and gas transition plans instead of political point-scoring

UNION bosses have hit out at party leaders for using oil and gas workers as “a political football” and called for the UK Government to take responsibility for a “manifest failure” to develop green industries.

Both Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer were pressed over their plans to end the exploration of North Sea oil and gas to tackle the climate crisis on their visits to Scotland this week.

The Prime Minister insisted there needs to be a “smooth and sensible” transition from oil and gas to greener forms of power, while the Scottish Conservatives’ Holyrood election manifesto stated “we believe that North Sea oil and gas has a long future of many decades ahead”.

Meanwhile, the Labour leader told journalists there should be a ”hard-edged timetable” drawn up to set out when oil and gas exploration should be ended.

READ MORE: Labour leader Keir Starmer backs ‘hard-edged timetable’ to end oil and gas extraction

The Scottish Conservatives have jumped on discussions between the SNP and the Greens – with the two parties reportedly close to agreeing a cooperation deal. But the Scottish Tories have claimed any deal would be “terrifying for the 100,000 workers and their families in our oil and gas industry” – comments previously labelled “scaremongering” by the Greens.

In June, a study found that 65 per cent of Scots back concrete plans being drawn up to wind down the extraction of oil and gas.

Scotland’s union bosses have now demanded politicians get on with bringing forward sustainable plans to transition workers into green energy jobs ahead of oil and gas being phased out to cut harmful emissions.

Roz Foyer, STUC general secretary, has warned there is “a continuation of a trend to treat workers across the energy sector as a political football”.

READ MORE: Cooperation deal between SNP and Scottish Greens ’95 per cent done’

She added that the UK Government must take responsibility for the uncertainty in the industry.

Ms Foyer said: “While the Tories seek to score points, under the UK Government, we’ve already seen the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the North Sea alongside deteriorating working conditions.

“Oil and gas consumption is not going to disappear overnight, but over coming decades employment in oil and gas is set to fall at a rate that will be dictated by oil prices as well as government policy.”

At the STUC congress during the election campaign, Nicola Sturgeon insisted her Scottish Government will bring forward a just transition for oil and gas workers “in a way that avoids the mistakes of the past which saw coal and steel workers, their families and communities abandoned during the de-industrialisation of the 80s and 90s”.

De-industrialisation of coal and steel led to thousands of jobs being lost with no transition plan – with many Scottish communities still reeling from the impact today.

The First Minister has appointed Richard Lochhead as the Scottish Government’s Just Transition Minister “with responsibility for overseeing a national mission of fairness and opportunity as we move to net zero”.

READ MORE: £33m of low carbon funding for oil and gas sector to ‘create 21,000 jobs by 2050’

Ms Foyer added: “As things stand for many oil and gas workers there is nowhere to go due to the failure to create an industrial strategy for the renewables supply chain, decommissioning, green infrastructure and a lack of investment in technologies such as carbon capture.

“In this, the UK Government has much to answer for, with its manifest failure to invest at anywhere near the scale required to create the green jobs we need.”

Jake Molloy, RMT regional organiser in Aberdeen, said that “the absence of a plan or any kind of coherent energy strategy” is the biggest worry to offshore oil and gas workers.

He said: “We’ve seen over 10,000 workers made redundant from the oil and gas sector in the last year and the redundancies continue. “They aren’t transitioning because there is little to transition to.”

Mr Molloy criticised failures to keep jobs associated with green industries in Scotland.

He said: “We should be manufacturing turbines and everything associated with them, but this is being done in the Middle East.

“We should be doing all of the oil and gas decommissioning and recycling but instead it is going abroad.”

READ MORE: Johnson will not apologise for ‘insensitive’ Thatcher coal mine remarks

Mr Molloy stressed that “it would be madness” to “simply turn off the oil and gas taps”.

But he added: “We are seeing the end of a finite resource, which we must, as there is no question we face a climate crisis.

“We are starting the development of infinite resources and we must take a controlling interest. We failed to do this with oil and gas whilst Norway sits on a €1 trillion ‘sovereign wealth fund’ which underpins their domestic welfare state.

“We have the chance to mirror that model with a truly ‘green recovery’ which can benefit every family in this country just as oil and gas has done for every family in Norway.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992