Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has called on ministers at Holyrood and Westminster to work together to help find a “more positive future” for the North Sea oil industry.
With more than 100,000 people in Scotland employed in the sector, the Conservative MP also stressed his party would “not throw away oil and gas jobs to achieve climate goals”.
Mr Ross said while it was right to push to expand Scotland’s renewable energy sector as part of efforts to meet the target of achieving net zero emissions by 2045, there had been “far too much focus on managing the decline of the oil and gas industry”.
Making a virtual speech to oil and gas workers, he stated: “We need to prepare for the future but the priority for me is the 100,000 jobs in the sector right now.
“My party will not throw away oil and gas jobs to achieve climate goals. We need our North Sea oil and gas sector to survive for decades, not for years.
“It can thrive and grow alongside a thriving and growing renewables sector. This is not a competition. We are going to be reliant on oil and gas for years to come.”
To help with this, he said the Scottish and UK governments “need to find new ways to work together on a more positive, bright future for the industry”.
The Scottish Tory leader wants the two administrations to jointly establish a North Sea ministerial working group to align investment programmes and strategies for the industry, which he insisted has a “long and sustainable future”.
Speaking about renewables, he said there are “not tens of thousands of vacant jobs in renewables waiting to be filled” and these green sources of energy “will not fulfil all of our energy demands in the near future”.
Green MSP Mark Ruskell claimed the Tory was “engaging in anti-science climate change denial “.
Mr Ruskell said: “Scotland has an abundance of renewable energy potential yet the Scottish Tories seem determined to hitch our future to the fossil fuel relics of the past.
“The Tories’ bizarre approach also lets the SNP off the hook for failing to capitalise on Scotland’s potential and deliver the quality, well-paid, unionised green jobs that we know can be created now.
“Most oil workers want to put their skills to work in Scotland’s renewables sector. But SNP and Tory governments have so far failed miserably to deliver on promised jobs.”
Industry body Oil and Gas UK welcomed Mr Ross’ “recognition of the vital role of the offshore oil and gas industry in our economy”.
Chief executive Deirdre Michie said: “Through a North Sea transition deal we can help the huge parts of our economy which can’t use electricity to meet climate change targets, developing practical solutions including the development of hydrogen and carbon capture and storage at scale. At the same time, we remain laser-focused on reducing our emissions.
“We look forward to conversations with all parties about the continued support needed for our sector in difficult times.
“In a stark economic climate for all, our changing industry has the essential expertise to provide affordable energy to millions of households and families, support jobs in energy communities across the country and create exciting new jobs of the future.”
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