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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament [Draft]

Meeting date: Wednesday, June 5, 2024


Oil and Gas Industry

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S6M-13482, in the name of Douglas Lumsden, on recognising the contribution of Scotland’s oil and gas industry. I would be grateful if members who wish to speak in the debate were to press their request-to-speak buttons.


Douglas Lumsden (North East Scotland) (Con)

During the most recent debate on oil and gas in the chamber, I stood here and said that the Scottish Conservatives were the only party that is committed to ensuring the future of the oil and gas industry in Scotland. A couple of months on, and that position has only been strengthened.

During this election campaign and in the television debate on Monday night, it was abundantly clear that Labour and the Scottish National Party will sell our industry down the river. Neither party will protect the jobs and investment in the north-east of Scotland; neither party will commit to issuing new licences; and neither party will stand up for communities and residents in the north-east. They are doubling down on their positions of destroying the energy industry for future generations, with one promising crippling taxes and refusing to issue licences, and the other failing to scrap its damaging presumption against new oil and gas. The industry condemns both parties for their records in that area.

Will the member take an intervention?

Is there any time, Presiding Officer?

There is the time that has been allocated; we have no extra time.

Douglas Lumsden

I am sorry, Mr Johnson. I will continue my speech.

I want to spend some time today in considering the recent report from the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce on energy transition. It makes for sombre reading and rightly issues a challenge to all parties and Governments to protect the interests of this vital industry. It states that we have

“100 days to save 100,000 jobs”,

which is a stark and chilling challenge to us all. The industry is losing confidence in investing in Scotland. Optimism here is falling, but it is rising internationally, and we all know who is to blame for that.

The industries that fed into the report all said that they increasingly believe that Aberdeen and the north-east energy sector can play an important role in providing United Kingdom energy security and leading UK energy transition ambitions. However, the sector can do that only through support from the devolved SNP Government. There is belief within the industry that the north-east should play a leading role, but there is pessimism about the support that the sector will receive in order to fulfil that potential.

Will Mr Lumsden take an intervention on that point?

Douglas Lumsden

I am sure that we will hear from Mr Stewart later.

There is also huge distrust that the industry will be given the opportunity to expand, because of a backward-thinking SNP Government that wants to turn off the energy sector’s taps and decimate the industry.

Will the member take an intervention?

We will hear from you later as well.

Mr Lumsden, please speak through the chair.

Douglas Lumsden

I apologise, Presiding Officer.

Indeed, the report shows that the political environment is now the biggest concern for those who are involved in the industry. We need stability and support, and the devolved SNP Government is not giving that.

Will Mr Lumsden take an intervention on that very point?

Douglas Lumsden

I am sure that we will hear from the minister later.

In fact, when asked, those who responded to the survey went even further. They were asked to rate the impact of the Scottish Government’s energy strategy on the energy sector and investor confidence, and 75 per cent of those who responded thought that the strategy had a very negative impact on the sector. That record has got worse and worse over the past year. It is clear that the SNP has lost the confidence of the north-east and the business community.

The report asked people in the industry how they viewed the Scottish Government’s just transition fund but, first, it asked whether they had even heard of it. A quarter had not; that is not a great endorsement of the Scottish Government’s record in that area. Fifty per cent said that they were not aware of how the fund could benefit their business, and 40 per cent thought that it was not important to helping Scotland achieve net zero.

When asked which party has the best policies for energy security, the Scottish Conservatives scored highest of all the parties.

The First Minister stood up on Monday night and claimed to work closely with the oil and gas industry. What a joke. John Swinney is completely out of touch with the industry and with the people of the north-east.

I make no apologies for sounding angry, because I am angry. I am angry on behalf of those hard-working individuals throughout the north-east who depend on the oil and gas industry for their livelihoods. I am angry on behalf of the companies that are being sent decrees from on high rather than being listened to. I am angry on behalf of all of us who represent the constituencies that are being ignored, sidelined and preached to by those who know nothing about the people who live and work there and know nothing about the energy industry.

One hundred days to save 100,000 jobs is a stark message that we should all be taking seriously. We should all be doing more to protect our communities. We are working with our friends and colleagues to do just that while Labour and the SNP look for ways to destroy the industry for good.

We will likely hear a lot from other parties today about moving jobs from the oil and gas sector into renewables. We have the potential but, without a proper plan, it is for the birds. We need to protect the supply chain that will be vital for the energy transition.

In the past nine years, Scotland’s low-carbon and renewables sector workforce has risen from 23,000 to just under 26,000, according to Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce—far less than what Alex Salmond promised. If that trend continues and the SNP continues to turn its back on the oil and gas industry, it will leave tens of thousands of people out of work, and tens of thousands of families right across Scotland facing economic hardship.

Many companies that are investing in opportunities such as floating offshore wind, carbon capture and hydrogen will require the cash flow from a stable and predictable oil and gas business to fund those opportunities. That is why we support the industry—without it, our path towards net zero will be so much harder.

Will the cabinet secretary today commit to what John Swinney found so difficult to commit to on Monday night and remove this backward-facing, science-denying and industry-destroying presumption against new oil and gas? It is a stupid policy that is harming our energy transition.

I move,

That the Parliament recognises the invaluable contribution that oil and gas makes to Scotland, with the industry supporting 94,000 jobs and providing over £10 billion in revenue in 2022-23; notes with concern that the Scottish Government has a presumption against oil and gas, whilst the Labour Party has said it will not allow any new licences, something that industry experts have said could lead to thousands of job losses; welcomes the provisions of the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, which, when passed, will increase investor confidence in the oil and gas sector and reduce the UK’s dependence on higher-emission imports from overseas; welcomes the approval of the Rosebank oil field and awaits a similar decision on the Cambo oil field; appreciates that oil and gas will still be a vital component of the UK’s energy mix in the future and that it is more environmentally friendly for the country to produce its own oil and gas than import it from abroad, and notes with concern the extremist positions taken by some activists, who are opposed to the very existence of a North Sea oil and gas sector, and condemns their actions, which are irresponsible, damaging and disruptive.


The Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Energy (Màiri McAllan)

I begin this important debate on points of indisputable fact. First, Scotland’s highly skilled oil and gas workforce is hugely important to us now and will continue to be in future. Secondly, the North Sea is a geologically mature oil and gas basin. Thirdly, vitally—Douglas Lumsden speaks of scientific facts—the scientific evidence is clear that there is an urgent need for the world to transition away from burning fossil fuels if destructive climate change is to be abated.

Will the cabinet secretary take an intervention?

Absolutely not, when you did not take a single one.

Through the chair, always.

Màiri McAllan


Those indisputable facts combined mean that a serious, responsible Government—one that cares deeply about Scotland’s offshore energy industries, as the SNP has always done—must now plan and deliver a managed and fair progression to a dynamic and internationally competitive system of energy of the future, which we are so well placed to deliver.

That means a just transition, and there is much talk of that across the political spectrum. The difference is that the SNP is not only talking about a just transition but working to deliver it. I will come back to that in a moment, but I will first address two other matters on which there has been much discussion recently.

The first is licensing. Regrettably, licensing—and therefore control—of Scotland’s oil and gas resource remains the domain of Westminster. Although my party is working to change that, while it remains the case, Scotland has the energy but lacks the power. We have seen in today’s prices how £400 billion-worth of our oil and gas revenues have flowed from the North Sea to the UK Treasury coffers.

Licensing decisions do not rest with the Scottish Government, but we are clear that the UK Government must approach licensing on a rigorously evidence-based, case-by-case basis, with robust climate compatibility and energy security being key considerations.

Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

Last year, the cabinet secretary said that she was consulting on a more robust climate compatibility checkpoint, including for oil and gas fields that are already licensed but not developed, and on a presumption of no new exploration in the North Sea. However, given the recent statements on climate compatibility and Kate Forbes’s statement today that the Government has been

“clear that we’re not against new licences”,

can the cabinet secretary confirm her position and tell us what her amendment today means?

Màiri McAllan

I am very happy to do so. Labour’s position, whether it has intended this or not, is an outright ban. The approach that the SNP has always articulated and which I am reasserting today is an evidence-based approach. It is an assessment on a case-by-case basis that takes account of climate compatibility and energy security.

Will the cabinet secretary give way?

Màiri McAllan

I am afraid that I do not have time.

Our position puts us squarely between the London parties. On the one hand, we have the Tories, who are wilfully ignoring the climate emergency—there is not a single mention of it in their motion today. On the other hand, we have Labour, which, true to form, is wilfully ignoring the needs of Scotland’s communities.

The second issue that I want to mention is windfall taxes. Again, I want to be clear that the SNP supports taxes where windfall profits arise anywhere across the United Kingdom economy. Indeed, while households are still struggling with energy bills, we support an energy profits levy up to its previously announced end date.

Will the cabinet secretary give way?

Màiri McAllan

I will not. I do not have time, I am afraid.

However, we object to the London parties extending and increasing that levy, focusing disproportionately on Scotland’s energy wealth and putting investment in renewables transition at risk.

In the case of the Tories, we object to their using that money to fund their unfunded tax cuts elsewhere and, in the case of Labour, we object to their apparent plans to invest it in nuclear energy in England. Both parties are undermining confidence in Scotland’s transition, which is vital for our economy and our contribution to ending climate change.

I said that I wanted to come back to some good news about how the SNP is already working to build a transition in Scotland. That includes our investment of £24.5 million to leverage Sumitomo’s groundbreaking £350 million supply chain investment in the port of Nigg, and the Scottish National Investment Bank’s £50 million investment, which is supporting one of the largest regeneration projects in the Highlands for decades at Ardersier, with the potential for around 3,000 jobs and reskilling opportunities. It also includes the £3.7 million that we have invested in the development of a practical offshore energy skills passport. On that, I am very pleased to note the industry update of progress on that last month.

I must ask you to conclude at this point, cabinet secretary.

Màiri McAllan

I will conclude by saying that we know that the task is difficult, but the opportunity and the prize are enormous, and we are already working to build the transition. We could do more with the powers in this Parliament and if the London parties would only put Scotland first, as the SNP always will.

I move amendment S6M-13482.4, to leave out from first “that oil” to end and insert:

“of the highly skilled and internationally recognised workforce in the oil and gas sector and the part that it plays in Scotland’s economy; believes that any responsible government that cares about the workforce and its future, as well as a just transition in regions such as the north east of Scotland and Shetland, and sites such as Grangemouth and Mossmorran, must now plan for a managed energy transition; notes that Scotland has been well positioned twice in terms of natural energy resources, once for North Sea oil and gas and now again for renewables; calls on the Scottish Government to bring forward a finalised Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan in summer 2024 that takes an evidence-based and pragmatic approach and ensures that climate compatibility assessment and energy security are properly reflected; understands the clear scientific evidence that there is an urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels globally if the Paris Agreement climate goals are to be met, and that the North Sea is a geologically mature and declining basin; appreciates that a key element of a managed transition must be a fiscal regime for the entire energy sector that provides stability and certainty, protects jobs based in Scotland and incentivises investment in renewables, and believes that the incoming UK administration should invest in a just transition for Scotland's valued oil and gas workforce to a net zero future as North Sea resources decline, and invest in reducing emissions in line with climate commitments.”


Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

This debate should be about how we ensure that we have the energy to power our homes and industry, how we deliver climate leadership, how we secure the economic benefits of the green economy and how we ensure that a just transition is a reality for all workers. Under the SNP and Tory Governments, that has not been the case. There is much talk of a just transition but little delivery.

Will the member give way?

Sarah Boyack

Not just now, thank you.

Last month, there was another failed SNP deadline, with no draft just transition plan for Grangemouth being published despite a commitment to do so by May 2024.

I would be delighted to take the minister’s intervention now.

Gillian Martin

As Sarah Boyack will know, a general election is on and no new announcements can be made during that period. We are ready to publish the Grangemouth just transition plan once the general election is over.

Does the £500 million just transition fund not count as assistance? Does £500 million of strategic investment not count as assistance to the just transition for energy?

Sarah Boyack

The point is that those projects should have been published earlier, before the election was called.

The just transition fund—slashed by 75 per cent. The green jobs fund—cut. The green growth accelerator—non-existent. The sectoral just transition plans—not delivered. The green skills passport—overdue and still not delivered.

The Scottish Trades Union Congress summed up the position very well when it said that the Scottish Government has failed to deliver the funded transition support, training support and jobs and skills audits for oil and gas workers.

Will Ms Boyack give way?

Sarah Boyack

No, thank you.

The actions of the UK Tory Government have been just as bad. For 14 years, it has not invested in renewables jobs across the UK, which we need for a sustainable future. From David Cameron proudly announcing that he was cutting “the green crap” to the UK Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, which the UK Government has confirmed would not take a penny off energy bills, the wrong message has been sent to investors on the UK’s commitment to the green economy.

We need change. We will not revoke existing licences. We will work with oil and gas companies to ensure that there is a sustainable, phased transition to clean energy. I am clear that the oil and gas sector in Scotland will be with us for decades to come. It is an established industry, and it is the duty of politicians and Governments to work with the sector, its workers and trade unions to ensure that we have a fair and managed transition during the next few decades.

Our green prosperity plan would create 69,000 jobs. It would create direct jobs in clean power and manufacturing and invest in the plumbers and builders that we need in our communities now to retrofit homes. Our local power plan would ensure that we can maximise the benefits of community-owned energy projects across Scotland, supplementing the technology that we already have, decarbonising our buildings and bringing down people’s bills. We would establish GB energy, an energy generating company that would be headquartered here, in Scotland.

Will the member take an intervention?

Sarah Boyack

No, thank you.

That company would be able to de-risk private investment in new technologies such as tidal and offshore floating wind while accelerating the deployment of existing technologies. It would be critical to ensuring that Scotland and the UK power ahead in the global race for renewables and the green economy. We have to accelerate the pace of change to create new jobs and investment opportunities. Through a national wealth fund, we would provide funding to invest in the key sectors and the infrastructure that we urgently need for the green economy, such as ports, industrial hubs and green hydrogen. Scottish businesses would have a partner in a possible future UK Labour Government.

We need change. We would work to reduce energy bills, create good jobs, deliver energy security and provide climate leadership. Those are Scottish Labour’s priorities.

I hope that the cabinet secretary will live up to the words in her amendment and work with—not against—a future Labour Government, because no community must be left behind. It is critical that, when we can work together in co-operative partnership with businesses, we do so and that we deliver the jobs that are urgently needed now.


Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) (Green)

We are at a critical point in the transition—halfway to net zero—but that is largely as a result of the easy wins, especially the decarbonisation of electricity. Anyone with any credibility at all accepts the reality that change is needed.

Outright climate denial is largely a fringe notion that is confined to the absurdities of GB News and the far-right press, but that was not always the case. The fossil fuel industry understood the fundamentals of the harm that it was doing to the world as long ago as the 1960s. Initially, it covered it up. Then, as the science came to be understood more widely, it pumped out lies and conspiracy theories as rapidly as it continued pumping out oil and gas. It succeeded in delaying climate action for decades. As millionaires became billionaires, the damage that they were quite deliberately doing to our global life-support system continued.

The fossil fuel industry’s creation of the climate denial conspiracy movement should go down in history as one of the greatest crimes against humanity ever perpetrated. The damage that it did is still with us, but, more recently, the fossil fuel industry has been successful at creating a new threat by moving its strategy from climate denial to climate delay. It says, “Of course, there should be a transition, but let us manage it in our own time and at a slower pace.” There was a time when all of this could have been done more slowly. It would have been easier. It would probably have been cheaper in the long run, too. That time was when the science first became clear and when we still had decades in which to act, but the fossil fuel industry was doing everything possible to put its own profits ahead of the survival of our world.

Whatever else we disagree about across the political spectrum, we should agree on the interests of the workforce whose livelihoods are at stake. To anyone working in the oil and gas sector, I say that, if your family or community is dependent on that industry, you need an active transition to make sure that there is a decent, secure future after the fossil fuel age. If that is what you need, it should be clear to you that the fossil fuel industry is your greatest enemy. It will always put its short-term profits ahead of your long-term future. It did it before, it is doing it now and it will continue to do it for as long as Governments allow it.

To those who say, “Let’s work with the fossil fuel industry on the transition,” I say that it is time to get real. As research from Oil Change International just a couple of months ago showed, of the large oil companies, including many of those working in the Scottish North Sea, many have plans to increase their global oil and gas production—not to transition away from it, but to increase it—and many of them are also ranked among the world’s most climate-wrecking investor-owned companies, based on their historical pollution.

The industry cannot be trusted to lead this change. Only assertive interventionist approaches from Government will get results at the rapid pace that is now required after decades of industry delays. We have seen the Tories ripping up their climate policies—thankfully, they will be out of Government very soon. The SNP is now back to its old ways. Instead of accelerating action on climate, Kate Forbes is quoted today as saying that the SNP has

“been clear that we’re not against new”

oil and gas licences and has

“never said no”.

That represents a shameless retreat from a position of climate leadership. The SNP is even attacking Labour’s half-hearted and insipid measures as too extreme. For its part, Labour wants to talk to us about GB energy, but it seems to be as unclear as the industry is about what that actually would be.

It is clear that only the Greens are willing to act like our future depends on it, shifting away from fossil fuel at the speed that is required and willing to use progressive taxation so that the wealth that is being hoarded by the super rich can be used to invest at the scale and pace that the transition demands.

I move amendment S6M-13482.2, to leave out from “makes” to end and insert:

“has made to Scotland’s economy and the contribution that it has made to the greenhouse gas emissions, which threaten the future of humanity and much of the living world; accepts the reality that the North Sea is a declining basin, that most of its production is for export and does not contribute to energy security, and that the world already has far more fossil fuel in existing reserves than it can afford to use in any scenario consistent with the Paris Agreement; notes that the industry supports an estimated 30,000 direct jobs and that these skilled workers need a managed transition to green industries that is both just and fast; further notes the long track record of the fossil fuel industry in first covering up climate science, then promoting climate denial conspiracy theories, before shifting to its current strategy of lobbying for slower climate action; notes with concern reports that the Scottish Government is considering ending its presumption against new oil and gas licences; condemns the UK Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, which would reward the fossil fuel industry and do nothing to reduce the UK’s dependence on it; notes with concern the extremist positions taken by some fossil fuel apologists who are opposed to the very existence of a liveable world, and condemns their actions, which are irresponsible, damaging and disruptive.”


Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

Back in March, Mr Lumsden and his colleagues were made to look faintly ridiculous as they sought to attack a windfall tax on oil and gas giants that their own chancellor and Prime Minister were happily extending that very same morning. Given the erratic behaviour of Rishi Sunak since calling an election that he had not even discussed with his Cabinet, Mr Lumsden must have lodged his motion for this debate with no little trepidation. However, in time-honoured fashion, I thank him for providing this latest opportunity to debate the oil and gas sector, our future energy needs and how Scotland and the wider UK make the just transition to a decarbonised energy system.

The motion and each of the amendments fairly acknowledge the vital role that the oil and gas sector plays in Scotland’s energy mix, as well as the jobs and economic activity that it supports. The sector will continue to play that role going forward. That said, what Mr Lumsden’s motion and his speech fail to acknowledge is that our reliance on oil and gas needs to come down, not just for environmental reasons but for the sake of our economy.

Last year, the Office for Budget Responsibility concluded that the UK is

“one of the most gas dependent countries in Europe”,

with 78 per cent of our energy needs met through fossil fuels. Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has made it clear that continued dependence on fossil fuels has left the UK more exposed to fuel price shocks, causing hardship to households and businesses. If Mr Lumsden is still not persuaded, perhaps he would heed the advice of the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee, which is chaired by his colleague Philip Dunne and which recently concluded that

“Accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels will enhance the UK’s energy security”.

It went on:

“It will also help to protect households from volatile fossil fuel prices permanently”.

That is a compelling win-win.

The transition that we need will undoubtedly come at a significant financial cost, and we need to look at how best we can meet those costs and be more creative in the financial incentives that are on offer. However, talking only about the costs of action ignores the fact that the costs of inaction or inadequate action are far greater still.

Will the member take an intervention?

Liam McArthur


The Conservatives might believe that their Canute-like approach to the issue is good politics in the midst of an election, but they are kidding themselves and, more importantly, misleading the public, which appears to be the campaign strategy of the day.

Earlier this year, the UK Climate Change Committee’s former chief executive Chris Stark warned all party leaders that the North Sea basin is winding down, whatever we do, so the priority needs to be removing the reliance on fossil fuels from the economy. This is not a question of policy or even politics—it is a matter of geological fact. Chris Stark also pointed out that, for all the sound and fury, at the extremes, the Greens and the Conservatives are actually arguing about whether North Sea production declines by 95 per cent or 97 per cent by 2050. Whatever way we cut it, if we are still stuck on fossil fuels in 2050, we will be importing them.

The transition is, of course, inevitable, but how it happens is certainly not. It needs to have the people and communities that are most directly affected at the heart of the decision-making process, and it will be different in different parts of the country. However it happens, it will require both of Scotland’s Governments to co-operate and collaborate—that has been a consistent message from the UK CCC over the years and is a key element of my amendment.

Patrick Harvie is right to say that this will not be easy, as all the easy stuff has already been done. However, the transition will be made harder, costlier and more painful if we pretend, as Douglas Lumsden appears to be doing, that it does not need to happen or that it can somehow be delayed.

On that basis, I move amendment S6M-13482.3, to leave out from first “notes” to end and insert:

“recognises that there is a climate emergency and that it is essential that Scotland meets its net zero targets by 2045 and drives down its reliance on fossil fuels; believes that the phasing down of the traditional oil and gas sector must be done hand in hand with the expansion of renewables and the creation of green jobs, using the wealth of talent and skills available, in order to ensure that communities are not left behind, and further believes that, in order to achieve a successful just transition, both of Scotland’s governments must work together, and with the oil and gas and renewables sectors, so that change can be managed properly and effectively.”

We move to the open debate.


Tess White (North East Scotland) (Con)

Thousands of livelihoods across the north-east rely on the oil and gas industry, not to mention the wider supply chain across Scotland. The industry supports the Scottish economy to the tune of almost £19 billion, and upwards of 94,000 jobs—that is massive by any standard.

People would be forgiven for expecting SNP and Labour politicians to want to safeguard such an important sector. However, the SNP, Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens want to turn off the taps in the North Sea and turn their backs on oil and gas. Hard-working and highly skilled North Sea workers would pay the price of political virtue signalling, with calls for the fastest possible transition to net zero.

Patrick Harvie has demonstrated that he lives in a bubble. I invite him to come up to the north-east and say what he said today to the hard-working families who would lose their livelihoods and their jobs. He and the SNP would create a cliff edge in the energy transition and devastate communities across my region.

The north-east economy is well and truly on the line, which is why we need a sensible and pragmatic approach to the energy transition. However, the SNP still has not published a proper energy strategy. It does not have a plan, but it has found the time to release independence paper after independence paper.

Will Tess White take an intervention on that point?

Tess White

I am sorry, but I do not have time. I would normally take an intervention.

During this week’s STV debate, John Swinney and Anas Sarwar both tried to swerve questions about the North Sea, but it was as clear as could be that the SNP and Labour still do not support new oil and gas licences or North Sea exploration. That has a direct impact on the energy sector in Scotland and investment in it.

The energy transition survey that was published just last week by the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce lays out, in the starkest of terms, what the situation looks like. It reports that confidence among companies that work on the UK continental shelf is now lower than it was during the financial crash and the pandemic, when oil prices were as low as $16 a barrel. A presumption against new licences would force us to import more oil and gas from overseas, at higher cost and with a greater carbon footprint, eroding our energy security at the same time.

However we look at it, the approach taken by the SNP and Labour does not make sense—it is economically and environmentally illiterate. It is a double blow for the north-east, because those communities are bearing the brunt of the new transmission infrastructure that is puncturing our countryside and decimating our prime productive arable land.

The Scottish Conservatives will keep standing up for our oil and gas industry. This week, Douglas Ross was, once again, unwavering in his support, while Anas Sarwar and John Swinney were all at sea. We are the only party that supports new oil and gas licences and, at the same time, supports the growth of highly skilled and highly paid roles in the renewables sector. We will not allow the oil and gas industry to be shut down, and we will not abandon the North Sea workers whose livelihoods depend on it.


Audrey Nicoll (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

Scotland has, indeed, punched above its weight when it has come to the energy sector, with the oil and gas industry underpinning a vital part of the Scottish economy over many decades. The workforce is highly skilled and internationally recognised, and there is an extensive supply chain, as well as research and innovation. The industry keeps us warm and keeps our lights on, and it provides a secure domestic energy supply. The north-east has been a major part of the oil and gas family since 1975, when the BP Forties field pipeline was switched on and the oil flowed onshore to Aberdeen and on to Grangemouth. Those were the days.

To date, our oil and gas sector has contributed an eye-watering £350 billion in tax revenue to the UK Treasury, and, according to Offshore Energies UK, 2022-23 saw the sector generate £18.9 billion in gross value added for the Scottish economy and support 90,000 skilled jobs.

Demand for fossil fuels will decline, but the sector will continue to play a vital role towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050, supporting the expansion of renewables and low-carbon technologies more broadly.

Will the member give way?

Audrey Nicoll

No, thank you.

I refer members to the words of Professor de Leeuw at Robert Gordon University, who recently said:

“Given the magnitude of change that is needed ... over the coming years, ... the UK, and devolved administrations must ... pursue credible energy pathways, which deliver a ‘just and fair’ transition for the sector and its workforce.”

Given those comments from a well-known expert and the fact that we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take the best learning from our world-class oil and gas sector and mirror that experience for new and green energy, it is bizarre—though not unexpected, given the Conservatives’ stance on energy—that their motion excludes any reference whatsoever to just transition, renewables, emissions or the climate.

In the short time that I have left, I want to draw on the excellent detail outlined in the latest Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce energy transition survey report and highlight a couple of the many points that it makes.

First, on policy recommendations, the report highlights the challenges that Scottish Government planners face as they struggle to keep up with the pace that the industry demands for green energy consents, particularly with regard to offshore wind. It is an issue that I and other members raise regularly. I appreciate that that is more of an operational matter, but I would be grateful if an update on that important issue could be provided at the end of the debate.

Secondly, the report states:

“it is clear from our survey ... that companies will exit the UKCS”—

that is, the continental shelf—

“under the tax regime being proposed by the Labour Party. This is supported by independent analysis which concludes that 100,000 ... jobs currently supported by the UK oil and gas sector will be lost by 2029. Investment of up to £30billion is at risk, and for many of the basin’s key pieces of infrastructure, we are rapidly approaching the point of no return.”

Finally, on the energy profits levy, the report states:

“we have a UK Government taxing the oil and gas sector to death with its Energy Profits Levy (EPL), triggering a state of inertia among global investors.”


“many will turn their investment plans and focus elsewhere.

This outcome would be catastrophic for jobs, tax revenues and energy security”.

The cabinet secretary set out very helpfully the concerns arising from the EPL—

Thank you, Ms Nicoll. I must ask you to conclude at that point.

Presiding Officer, there is a lot to be positive about—

Yes, thank you very much, Ms Nicoll. [Applause.]

I call Daniel Johnson, to be followed by Stephen Kerr.


Daniel Johnson (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)

I presume that that applause is for the beginning of my contribution.

Let me try to do the impossible. Despite the heat and the noise and the ill temper, there are things that we agree on. First of all, there is the extraordinary contribution that the North Sea has made to the economy of this country, including tens of thousands—if not hundreds of thousands—of well-paid jobs and the fact that, with that expertise and those assets, we have an extraordinary opportunity in renewables. That opportunity will require a transition plan, and an extraordinary level of investment will be needed to deliver it.

However, I fear that contrived disagreements and bluster will create an environment that puts off that investment and leads to confusion and instability, driving people away from investing in the North Sea at a time when we can ill afford that.

Let us make no mistake—

Will the member take an intervention?

Daniel Johnson

I want to make a little progress.

The cost of energy is absolutely critical. If we ever needed a lesson in that, we would just have to look at how, in the past couple of years, utility bills have doubled, food bills have increased by a third and the cost of doing business has skyrocketed, all because of an energy shock. In line with that, utility companies, particularly those in the petrochemical industry, saw their revenues increase threefold, with profits by Shell and BP alone doubling in 2022.

When such profits are made, the choice that faces us is this: do we want them invested in share buy-backs, or do we want them to be taxed as extraordinary profits and invested in the transition? That is the proposition that Labour is setting out. By all means question the detail of that—

Will the member give way?

Daniel Johnson

I am keen to take some interventions, but I would like to make some progress.

That is the proposition and that is the plan—and at least we have a plan to look at and criticise. By all means let us look at the detail, but I think that we do need that plan.

Will the member give way on that point?


Does Daniel Johnson not realise that the industry and the investors that he is describing are being put off by his party’s future plans for the sector? That is what is driving investment away.

Daniel Johnson

Let us look at that. I think that both parties of Government are misrepresenting their positions, or at least are being confusing. The energy profits levy, which I presume is at the heart of the attack, is something to which his party is committed, up to 2029. Indeed, we are also in an extraordinary position with the Scottish National Party and its announcement just today in the chamber that it wants to withdraw the levy one year early. It is being less clear on that tax—or less committed to it—than the Conservative Government. [Interruption.] Will the cabinet secretary clarify whether that is what she meant by her comment about the original date?

Màiri McAllan

That was a reassertion of our position, which is, as it always has been, that we support the energy profits levy to its original date. As I have said, the SNP supports windfall taxes, where windfall profits apply, across our economy. I wonder whether Daniel Johnson extends his support for windfall taxes to online retail giants and supermarkets, or is Labour just content to use Scotland’s natural resources as its cash cow?

You must draw to a conclusion, Mr Johnson.

Daniel Johnson

I think that we have just heard the rather extraordinary revelation that, when it comes to windfall taxes, the SNP wants to do less than the Conservative Government. That should not come as a surprise, because we have seen the SNP take at least three different positions on a windfall tax in the past year alone.

As for licensing, Màiri McAllan said on 22 November at a Friends of the Earth meeting that the Scottish Government did not agree with new licences. Today, though, we have heard an entirely different position, and it is pretending as though the previous position did not exist at all. The reality is that we have very confused positions from both the Conservatives and the SNP.

I am sorry that I have to draw my comments to a conclusion but, ultimately, as Liam McArthur said, transition is a necessity—

You must conclude.

—not an option.


Stephen Kerr (Central Scotland) (Con)

We all saw John Swinney and Anas Sarwar struggling to answer the very pointed questions that were put to them on Monday night by Douglas Ross, because their positions on the issues relating to the future of the oil and gas sector are, to be frank, extremely dangerous for the future of the sector.

One of the criticisms that is most often levelled at this Parliament is that there are not enough people in here who have experience of the world of business. Daniel Johnson has such experience, which is why, had his speech gone on much longer, I think that he would have struggled to defend the policy of his party. Listening to this debate, it is hard to argue with the criticisms that people level about the lack of business experience among members in the chamber. What we have heard this afternoon is theory that is devoid of any real-world context being bandied about by members who are in a complete state of denial about the reality of what is happening in the North Sea basin.

Let us consider the Greens, very briefly. They would just shut everything down. They have no interest in the tens of thousands of people who work in the sector. Tess White is absolutely right. Patrick Harvie’s comments were an insult to tens of thousands of families in the north-east of Scotland.

Let us consider the SNP. It campaigned for years on the slogan “It’s Scotland’s oil”. It expressed that repeatedly, but now there is a presumption against new oil and gas. That is what we have heard from the SNP front bench for the past three years, in which I have sat in the Parliament. There is no point in denying it, and there is no point in Kate Forbes trying to revise what has been said in this chamber by First Ministers and others who have sat on that front bench. They have argued in favour of swingeing surtaxes on North Sea operations. They cannot say that they are not in favour of that, because, in all honesty, we do not have straw for brains. We can remember what was said just last week, the month before or the year before. I tell members not to insult the intelligence of the people of Scotland now by portraying the SNP as the defenders of North Sea oil and gas.

Let us consider Labour. As we saw last night, we can never be sure of what Labour policy is on anything, but industry bodies and trade unions are united in condemning the party’s current policy towards North Sea oil and gas. They warn that the consequences of additional windfall taxes and a presumption against—no, a banning of—new oil and gas will cost millions and millions and precipitate the demise of the whole sector. Labour says that it does not want a cliff edge, but it then exposes its ignorance of how global capital flow works.

Does Stephen Kerr accept that the North Sea basin’s output is declining by 15 per cent a year, that that is irreversible and, what is more, that we are arguing about a difference in headline rate?

Stephen Kerr

If Labour policy threatens the flow of capital into what is already there, it will not be there at all. Very quickly, it will drop off a cliff. There is a constant need for new capital investment in the North Sea. If there is no future for North Sea oil and gas, why on earth would anyone invest in the sector now?

There is also the mystery of GB energy. What on earth is it? Every time a Labour politician stands up to talk about GB energy, they talk about something completely different. Apparently, it is an energy company that generates but does not generate energy. I have no idea what the Labour Party’s policy on it is. I go back to my original point: it can only be a policy that was worked up by careerist politicians and policy wonks who have no idea how the real world works.

Only the Scottish Conservatives will stand up for the oil and gas sector and the tens of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on it.


Ben Macpherson (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)

I am glad that we are speaking about this important issue in our national Parliament. It is interesting that the motion that has been brought to the chamber covers the fact that decisions on energy and offshore oil and gas licensing are reserved. I look forward to the Conservatives being as open minded about discussing reserved issues in future.

I speak not only as an MSP but as someone who worked for one of Scotland’s leading commercial law firms—I hope that that is enough professional experience for Mr Kerr—and a renewable energy company that had a wonderful and remarkable staff team, many of whom had come from the oil and gas sector. They were forward thinkers on the just transition. That gives me a relevance in the debate.

The oil and gas industry is particularly pertinent in the north-east of Scotland, Shetland and other parts north of Edinburgh. However, not only is the supply chain Scotland-wide, but so is the services sector that delivers for oil and gas and, in time, will deliver more and more for net zero. I am more than happy to acknowledge the invaluable contribution of the highly skilled and internationally recognised workforce in the oil and gas sector, the part that they play in Scotland’s economy and what the sector does for us at present by supplying heat and electricity and through the economic contribution that it makes. However, we have to recognise that the North Sea is a geologically mature and declining base and that it is geographically challenging to access compared with other fields.

Despite what has rightly been said about some in the oil and gas industry not wanting to transit to net zero, we have to recognise that there is a general worldwide shift towards net zero and that that is a huge opportunity for Scotland to realise. That is why I welcome the Scottish Government’s intention to introduce a finalised energy strategy and just transition plan later this summer. It will take an evidence-based and pragmatic approach and will ensure that climate compatibility assessment and energy security are properly reflected. I hope that, at that juncture, outwith the election period, we will have more time to talk about and debate those issues.

There is an absolute need to move to net zero and, as has been acknowledged, the just transition is the right way to go about it. More than anything else, we know from history that, if we do not protect jobs and skills and do not undertake a change in a way that is sensitive to communities, it causes significant damage. There is an irony in what the Conservatives say, because unfortunately, in constituencies across the country, including mine, we are still having to deal with the deindustrialisation that their Government presided over.

As we move towards net zero, we do so with respect and admiration for those who work in oil and gas, and they are part of how we move forward. We move forward methodically but purposefully—

I must ask you to conclude at that point, Mr Macpherson.

—in meeting our climate necessity, and we do so sensitively and strategically.

We move to the winding-up speeches.


Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

I commend Ben Macpherson on a thoughtful speech that was to some extent a bit of an antidote to the speech from Stephen Kerr that we heard prior to that. I acknowledge that the debate is taking place in an election context and I recognise that Mr Kerr has more skin in the game than the rest of us. However, slightly worryingly, the tone of the debate has largely not been different from the debate that we had three months ago, when the election was but a glint in Rishi Sunak’s eye. The point has been made that the general consensus on issues in the energy sector that we have had for many years appears to be breaking down, which is a real concern.

We heard rather alarmist rhetoric from Tess White and Stephen Kerr about shutting the sector down. On the other hand, we heard Patrick Harvie’s suggestions on the discussions about what happens next and the pace at which it happens. The industry and those with an interest in it can perhaps be condemned or criticised for actions in the past, but to exclude them from the process, what happens next and the pace at which it happens is not something that we would contemplate or accept in any other area.

Will the member give way?

I will give way very briefly.

Patrick Harvie

I am grateful. Will Mr McArthur accept the reality that the companies that we are talking about are expanding their fossil fuel investments at the moment and they are not transitioning away? That is a matter of fact.

Liam McArthur

I do not accept that at all. Different things will be happening in different parts of the world. There is no doubt that oil and gas will remain a part of our energy mix for some time, but the notion that we can exclude from the discussions those who have an interest in what happens next is not something that we would accept or tolerate in any other area.

Despite the election context, Daniel Johnson made a valiant effort to draw together areas of common cause, including the contribution of the sector, the inevitability of the transition, the investment that will be needed to deliver it, and the important point about confidence that many members have made. Confidence across the energy sector has not been helped by some of the UK Government’s recent decisions. Daniel Johnson’s attempt to bring harmony fell apart, as he suggested that the Scottish National Party was less aggressive on the windfall tax aspirations than the Conservatives. However, it was a valiant effort.

Let me conclude with a couple of the key points from the Liberal Democrat amendment about what we need to see as part of the transition. One of those points, which the UK CCC has been making for years, is about the need for both of Scotland’s Governments to work together to develop detailed plans for delivery on their ambitions. There is no point in having ministers, whether they are based in Downing Street or at St Andrew’s house, hunting out disagreement. We are talking about an area in which, over the years, successive energy ministers in the Scottish Government and the UK Government have found ways of working together, and we need to get back to that.

The other point is that the transition is inevitable. The disappointing thing about Douglas Lumsden’s motion and his speech is that he elided that fact—he avoided making any reference to it whatsoever. That transition will look different in different parts of the country. In my Orkney constituency, for example, where the Flotta oil terminal has been integral to our island economy and community for almost half a century, it might involve a transition to a green hydrogen terminal over time, but that is the embodiment of the transition that we need to see.

It is certainly the case that inaction and inadequate action would come at a heavier price than the action that we need to take. On that basis, I urge Parliament to back the amendment in my name.


Patrick Harvie

I have frequently reflected on the comparison between the debates that happened about a decade ago in relation to Longannet and those that are happening now in relation to the North Sea. The same debate is happening, and I think that there is the same lack of transparency for the workforce involved, only on a much bigger scale.

Everybody knew that Scotland’s last coal-fired power station was going to close—they knew that it had to close, should close and would close. We all knew it, yet the company that owned it, the local authority, the Scottish Government and the UK Government all kept on saying the same thing: “We’re fully committed to the long-term future of the plant.” That was a dishonest position, then; it was not in the interests of the workforce of the plant, which was a doomed plant. It was going to close, and we all knew it. What should have happened is that the last decade of its operational life should have been dedicated to investment in a decent economic future for the local community for the period after it closed. That did not happen.

That is what a planned transition would involve, and that is the kind of honesty that is required in relation to the North Sea. It is entirely wrong of the Conservatives to claim, as they have done today, that they are the ones who are standing up for the workforce. They are pretending that the oil and gas industry has a long-term future, when we all know that that industry is not the future.

As for the Liberal Democrat amendment, I recognise the valiant attempt that Liam McArthur has made to try to calm things down. Perhaps he is due credit for trying to do so. However, I cannot support an amendment that includes that mealy-mouthed phrase about “phasing down” fossil fuels, which is the very phrase that caused such utter dismay when fossil fuel lobbyists managed to get it into a United Nations framework convention on climate change conference of the parties report a few years ago.

I do not expect much better from the Conservatives on their position, but I have to say that I used to expect better from the SNP. It had begun—finally—to end its fixation on supporting the fossil fuel industry, but it appears that that is no longer the case. In relation to licensing, the cabinet secretary—although it might have been the minister—said that the Government will take an “evidence-based” approach, but she also said that it would do so on a “case-by-case basis”. The evidence that we have is that the entire world already has far more fossil fuel in existing reserves than we can afford to use. The United Nations says so, the International Energy Agency says so and the global climate experts say so. We have far more of the stuff than we can afford to use. There can be no justification for going looking for more. We have a global glut of the stuff, and we cannot use it.

As for the Labour Party’s position, I know that Daniel Johnson was keen to say—I enjoyed the fact that he enjoyed saying so—that the SNP and Conservative positions were unclear, undefined, uncertain and “confused”, but I have to say that the Labour Party’s position on its proposal for GB energy is no clearer. Back in January, Sarah Boyack said that GB energy would be a

“publicly owned energy champion for clean energy”.—[Official Report, 24 January 2024; c 36.]

In May, Anas Sarwar said that it would be a

“publicly-owned energy generating company”.

Just four days later, Keir Starmer said that it would be an

“investment vehicle, not an energy company,”

but on the same day, Ed Miliband said that it would be

“a company that generates electricity.”

I am sure that a position will be set out in the closing speeches; the point is that there have been so many different positions that even the industry is unclear about what it means.

The one thing that I am clear about is that GB energy will lack the resources that it needs. Just a few months ago, Sarah Boyack said that Labour would be “committed to” £28 billion of investment, which she said would be “crucial”. Last year, Ed Miliband said that

“Some people don’t want Britain to borrow to invest in the green economy. They want us to back down. But Keir, Rachel and I will never let that happen. Britain needs this £28bn a year”.

You must conclude, Mr Harvie.

Now that Keir, Rachel and Ed have backed down, that commitment has gone—

You must conclude, Mr Harvie.

—a commitment that Labour was describing as “essential”, just months ago.


Sarah Boyack

I had been looking forward to the debate since it was announced, because I was intrigued to see which versions of each party we would have in the speeches. Would it be the SNP that boasts about climate action and that was, only in March, lodging amendments to motions that argued in favour of windfall taxes, or would it be the SNP that is the only party to refuse to back a windfall tax on oil and gas giants and will not rule out new licences?

For the Conservatives, do we have the Tories of Jeremy Hunt’s budget, who extended the windfall taxes to 2029, or the Tories who want unlimited North Sea oil drilling in defiance of scientific reality and climate necessity? We have a bit of everything—some vague statements and some poorly masked desperate pleas from two struggling parties that are in an election cycle that they are not enjoying.

Let me focus on the motion and amendments. It will not come as any surprise that I cannot support Douglas Lumsden’s motion. I absolutely value the work and contribution of our oil and gas workers, but Douglas Lumsden’s motion does not reflect the fact that the oil and gas deposits in the North Sea are declining. As speakers from across the parties have said, we need a plan and we need to invest now, and we need to think about how we deliver a just transition. In failing to acknowledge that fact, the Tories seem to be intent on doing to oil and gas workers what they did to the Scottish coal communities.

We need to invest in new opportunities and we need to work with the oil and gas sector, because many of its companies are transitioning to renewables and investing in innovative technology that is reducing emissions in their operations now, as they still produce oil and gas.

The points that Ben Macpherson made about jobs and skills are absolutely crucial. They are why we need the offshore skills passport now, so that workers in the North Sea can use their knowledge and experience over the coming decades in oil and gas and in renewables, there and back.

Gillian Martin

Will Sarah Boyack recognise that the offshore skills passport is an industry-led scheme? Although the Government has given some money towards it, it has been led by industry, which recently made an announcement on its progress.

Sarah Boyack

We need the offshore skills passport to happen, though, and we need the two Governments to ensure that it happens now, because some workers are already missing out on job opportunities; they must either pay several thousands or just give up.

There is a real issue about the content of the cabinet secretary’s amendment—the lack of actual action. Again, we have just heard that it would be nice if the business sector delivered the passport, but that has not happened yet. We have had far too many missed opportunities. We have been calling for the energy and just transition plan to be published for months, because we need certainty. When I meet companies in the energy sector, they say that they want clarity so that they can invest now and with confidence.

We have so many opportunities in Scotland, but the supply chains need to know where the investment will go. We know that we potentially have new renewables construction in Leith, and that the Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd project has been announced. Things are happening, but we need a joined-up approach and a plan for investment, because this is not just about the words “just transition”: it is about implementation. I am so glad that—

Will the member take an intervention?

Sarah Boyack

No. I need to move towards the end. I am in the last minute.

GB energy which I mentioned in my opening speech, is not a mystery. It will champion the transition and enable investment. There are lots of publicly owned energy companies across Europe, but we need a generating company in Scotland that will get the investment going—[Interruption.]

Let us hear Ms Boyack.

—that will support investment by the public and the private sector.

Will the member give way?

Ms Boyack is concluding.

Sarah Boyack

The company will bring together the UK Government, the Scottish Government and our local authorities. We need to work together, because the climate emergency and the challenge of fuel poverty, which the Tory cost of living crisis has exacerbated, are real issues.

We need action and investment in green jobs now, and we need to work with the oil and gas and the renewables sectors to deliver the opportunities—

You must conclude, Ms Boyack.

—to give us the just transition now and in the decades to come.


The Minister for Climate Action (Gillian Martin)

I begin by stating clearly that there will be no routes to net zero or energy security except in partnership with business—particularly businesses that are operating in Scotland, including Scotland’s valued offshore energy industry. Scotland’s existing highly skilled oil and gas workforce is vital to delivering the transition to a renewable future, as is investment from integrated energy companies. It is no longer the case that oil and gas companies are over there and renewable companies are over here; they have merged and are working in partnership with one another. Oil and gas companies are also diversifying into renewables, as we have seen with the ScotWind rounds. Those companies will help us to future proof our position as a major energy-producing nation.

Even if there was no climate emergency and it did not pose an existential threat—although we know that it does—Scotland, particularly the north-east, the Highlands and Islands and Orkney and Shetland, would need to transition to a future that future proofs energy jobs. As so many people have said, we know that the North Sea is a mature basin that is declining. Oil and gas companies recognise that, which is why they are diversifying. We need to ensure that, where levers remain reserved, we call on the UK Government to act to support the transition in a way that, to be honest, it has not done so far.

I will move on to areas about which there is a lot of agreement. Daniel Johnson mentioned some of those areas, including Governments working together to ensure that Scotland gets the investment that it requires. I say to Sarah Boyack that we put £500 million of just transition funding into the north-east in Moray; I would like that to be matched by an incoming Labour Government. We have £500 million in strategic investment funding; I would like to see that being matched by an incoming Labour Government. I would like Governments to put their money where their mouth is, because Scotland is at the epicentre of the renewables revolution that will be powering and decarbonising all of the UK’s energy supply.

If our energy is not decarbonised, we will be continually reliant on burning oil and gas. With a mature basin, we will not be able to service demand domestically, and we will need to import the oil and gas that we require. I agree whole-heartedly with Liam McArthur, who put the challenge squarely to the Conservatives that, if the party continually denies the fact that oil and gas in the North Sea and the west of Shetland is a declining resource that it will no longer be commercially viable to extract, it is letting down the workers of the north-east. We and the parties that recognise that are the ones that are future proofing Scotland’s economy as well as the jobs of future energy workers. I make that point very clearly.

Meanwhile, we need to help oil and gas operators to invest in renewables, work with other renewables companies and reduce their production emissions, which we have done with the innovation and targeted oil and gas—INTOG—rounds. That initiative will develop floating offshore wind that allows production emissions to reduce, which will lead into the climate compatibility aspect of things. If oil and gas companies wanted to apply for a licence for a new field, they would have to demonstrate that, for example, they were doing everything that they could to bring down the emissions of the associated production. We want to see an evidence-based licensing regime for oil and gas.

Will the minister clarify whether she just said that her approach to evidence will be about production emissions only, not the emissions that are associated with consumption? Is that correct?

Gillian Martin

I was giving an example of a condition that might be in a climate compatibility checkpoint. I did not say that that would be the only condition in a checkpoint.

Scotland is leading the way in the conversation on climate compatibility checkpoints for the UK as well as oil and gas producing companies around the world. We will do that until our country’s energy systems, such as heating and transport, no longer rely on the burning of oil and gas.

Daniel Johnson

The minister has taken a consensual approach. However, does she recognise that the previous First Minister said that approving Rosebank would be tantamount to climate denial? The current approach is significantly different from that previous statement and the previous approach to licensing.

You must conclude, minister.

Gillian Martin

I will bring the debate back to the workers, because that is really what we are talking about. We are not talking about multinational companies; we are talking about Scotland’s future economy. We need to recognise that, even if there were not a climate emergency—which there is—there is not a future for North Sea oil and gas beyond the next 50 years.

I must ask you to conclude, minister.

That is not me saying that; it is the companies that are currently working in that area.

I call Liam Kerr to wind up the debate—up to six minutes, please.


Liam Kerr (North East Scotland) (Con)

The debate has been revealing. First, it has revealed a failure to appreciate demand. Oil and gas will be required for years—for decades to come—and not only for power, although as it currently meets around 75 per cent of the UK’s energy needs, that is not going to change soon. Also—Liam McArthur missed this in an otherwise interesting contribution—2021 figures show that around a quarter of the UK’s oil and gas goes towards manufacturing everyday products. That is medicines, cosmetics and asphalt; it is materials for wind turbines and solar panels.

It was good to hear Tess White remind us that meeting demand here is vital for energy security, for a lower carbon footprint and for tens of thousands of Scottish jobs, of which roughly 95 per cent are in the north-east. Yes, we all want a transition, but curtailing supply before renewable energy capability can cope, as well as failing to answer the base-load question and cut demand, is illiterate. As Douglas Lumsden pointed out, the transition will not happen without the support and investment of the oil and gas industry.

As Ryan Crighton of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce put it, to achieve net zero

“we need to unlock almost unfathomable amounts of capital”,

and that is in a context where investment often does not pay a return for years. That leads me to the various amendments—

Will the member give way?

Liam Kerr

Can I come back to you, please, Mr Johnson?

I have for some time thought that one of the few things that Humza Yousaf got right during his ill-fated time as First Minister was to eject the Green Party from Government, so it was gratifying to read Patrick Harvie’s amendment and listen to his unevidenced, dogmatic and—dare I say it—extreme contributions and interventions today and be proved absolutely right. His ludicrous amendment bears absolutely no further consideration.

The Labour and Scottish National Party amendments display astonishing ambivalence and ignorance about investment—despite Daniel Johnson, rightly and constructively, bringing it up. As a mature basin, the North Sea oil and gas sector is at greater risk of divestment than others as it becomes less economic, yet the Labour Party’s positioning reveals that it does not understand that.

Never forget that it was Keir Starmer who said last year that he would end new exploration, which Audrey Nicoll rightly said would deter up to £30 billion of investment in Scotland. In the leaders debate, Anas Sarwar said that he wants oil and gas companies to invest, then in the same breath he talked about not only hiking the energy profits levy—a hike that it has been reported could lead to 42,000 jobs being lost and £26 billion of economic value being wiped out—but ripping away the investment allowances that are specifically put in place to divert profit to renewables.

Daniel Johnson

Last year, BP made more than £30 billion-worth of profits and Shell made more than £50 billion-worth of profits, and much of that excess profit is used for share buy-back. Does the member accept that that is not a good use of money and that it should be invested in renewables, which is what our proposition is?

Liam Kerr

I presume that Daniel Johnson would accept that those profits are not specifically isolated to the UK—[Interruption.]—and he has to have a much more forensic analysis when he is using such statistics. [Interruption.]

Mr Johnson.

Liam Kerr

Let us stay with Labour on this. Earlier, Stephen Kerr brought up GB energy. Let us ignore for a second the fact that Labour cannot tell us where it is going to be located, and the fact that it would apparently employ only 50 to 100 people, and let us focus on Keir Starmer going on “Good Morning Scotland” to say that it would be an energy company. It would not be an energy company and it was not to produce energy—until yesterday, when he said that it is an energy company and it will produce energy. On Sarah Boyack’s speech, I do not know which version of the party—as you said—turned up, but which Keir Starmer can we expect to turn up on any given day?

Please speak through the chair.

Liam Kerr

Let us be clear that, when it comes to uncertainty stifling investments, the Labour Party has nothing on the SNP. Members should remember when, as Stephen Kerr pointed out, it was Scotland’s oil and the 2013 SNP paper was predicated on the average cash price not falling below $113 a barrel.

Will Mr Kerr give way?

Liam Kerr

I will make the point.

Those were halcyon days indeed because, in an abrupt volte face, the SNP’s energy strategy contained a presumption against oil and gas exploration. This week, it turns out that the First Minister is exploring his position on the presumption. When he was asked four times on Monday night whether he would back new licences, his answer was, at best, unclear. Shirley-Anne Somerville was asked the same question on Radio 4 four times yesterday, but she gave no clear answer.

Meanwhile, Stephen Flynn was on Radio Scotland on 29 May urging the SNP to change policy, and Kate Forbes was on STV saying that the SNP has never said no to further licensing.

Will Mr Kerr give way?

Liam Kerr

No—I will not.

The SNP is making it up as it goes along, and its members are contradicting each other at every turn. I say to Gillian Martin that that is not future proofing—it is stifling investment. Who should investors believe—the First Minister or the two people who are manoeuvring to replace him?

As I said at the start, the debate has been revealing because it has shown the ignorance of the Greens, the incompetence of the SNP and the financial illiteracy of Labour. All the oil and gas debates in the past few years have been brought to the chamber by the Scottish Conservatives, and consistency and clarity run through them. We back our oil and gas industry, our energy security, tens of thousands of jobs and a just transition, and we do so not with words but with deeds, such as the £16 billion North Sea transition deal.

I urge Parliament to reject the contortions of Labour, the confusions of the SNP and the delusions of the Greens and vote for the motion in Douglas Lumsden’s name.

That concludes the debate on recognising the contribution of Scotland’s oil and gas industry.