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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Wednesday, September 15, 2021


North Sea Oil and Gas

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Annabelle Ewing)

Good afternoon, colleagues. I remind members that social distancing measures are in place in the chamber and across the Holyrood campus. I ask that members take care to observe those measures, including when entering and exiting the chamber. Please use the aisles and walkways only to access your seat and when moving around the chamber.

The next item of business is a debate on motion S6M-01193, in the name of Liam Kerr, on the future of North Sea oil and gas.


Liam Kerr (North East Scotland) (Con)

No one, especially not the industry, denies that there is a climate emergency. We all saw the conclusions of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which underlines the consequences of historical actions and the need to take significant steps now. However, those actions must be carefully considered, and it is absolutely clear that we must avoid the temptation to impose simplistic solutions and should instead consider the science to help us to make what are tough and sometimes unpalatable choices.

The issue that lies at the very core of the debate is that there is still significant on-going demand. Members of the former just transition commission told the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee that just last week, and the Climate Change Committee acknowledges it under every scenario. Currently, oil and gas account for three quarters of the United Kingdom’s energy needs, and it is forecast that, by 2050, half of all UK energy demand will still need to be met by oil and gas. By the time that the Cambo oil field is scheduled to start producing, oil and gas supply will have declined by 33 per cent on 2020, but demand will have fallen by only 15 per cent. Yesterday, the cabinet secretary agreed when, in response to my question, he said:

“We have done a lot on the supply side ... we have not done enough on the demand side.”—[Official Report, Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, 14 September 2021; c 17.]

Indeed, this morning, on “Good Morning Scotland”, Mark Ruskell agreed, in restating that our focus must be on the demand side.

The situation is complex. About a quarter of the UK’s oil and gas goes towards manufacturing everyday products including medicines, cosmetics and household cleaners, as well as asphalt for roads and materials that are used for wind turbines and solar panels. The fact is that we are not yet at a stage where renewables can supply all the electricity that Britain needs to keep the lights on in our homes, hospitals, schools and factories.

From where should we source the oil and gas to meet that demand? We could source from abroad—we do that already. Between January and March this year, the UK had to import 56 per cent of the gas that was required to keep the nation’s homes and power stations running. It cannot be sensible to cut our own resources—it is Scotland’s oil, after all, cabinet secretary—and to become increasingly dependent on countries such as Qatar, which exports liquefied natural gas thousands of miles by ship. That is in a context in which, according to the Oil and Gas Authority, natural gas from the UK continental shelf has less than half the carbon footprint of that imported LNG.

If we offshore our responsibilities and emissions, we have no means to control them. As Sir Ian Wood said, we become dependent on countries with far less strict environmental regulations than the world-leading UK. Last year, we imported almost £3 billion in oil and gas from Russia. I cannot believe that members want to increase our exposure to, and reliance on, that regime.

If we prematurely end production, our balance of trade will suffer. Although we know that that is of no concern to the Green Party, we must all be concerned that, last year, when UK and European Union production shrank but demand grew, gas prices surged. If oil and gas costs more, that will plunge thousands into fuel poverty.

Mike Tholen of Oil & Gas UK points out that offshoring production and importing would

“cause an energy skills shortage that would decimate our ability to deliver the low carbon energy mix our members are already creating in the UK, through wind, solar, tidal, hydrogen and other greener technologies.”

That is key. The industry supports close to 100,000 jobs in Scotland—more than 60,000 in the north-east. A hard shutdown of the industry would consign the region to a bleak future and would end all the innovations that those workers are already delivering in our transition. We need people with those skills to pioneer greener energy and to develop carbon capture, hydrogen and offshore wind at scale and rapidly. Losing those skills will undermine our transition.

What of the fabled just transition—moving oil and gas workers into the renewables sector? Last week, the former head of the just transition commission, Jim Skea, said that the words “just transition” are used as “magic dust”.

Collette Stevenson (East Kilbride) (SNP)

If the UK Tory Government is serious about the future of the north-east, it should be working to secure it. Does the member agree with Professor Jim Skea, the former chair of the just transition commission, that

“there has been far more interest from Brussels in the progress on a Scottish just transition than there has been from London”?—[Official Report, Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, 7 September 2021; c 27.]

Liam Kerr

I congratulate the member on reading out a prepared intervention. What is most galling about the relentless whataboutery is that not only does it waste everyone’s time in an important debate but it shows just how unable the member is to either properly address my motion or prosecute the case for her party’s amendment.

The UK has cut emissions faster than any G7 country. There has been a 44 per cent reduction in three decades, while the economy has grown by 78 per cent. In the past 12 months, the UK published clear plans to decarbonise power generation, heavy industry and oil and gas. That is rather better than what has come from the Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport. Just yesterday, he conceded that no details around the just transition fund are mentioned in his amendment and that there will be no details on his just transition plan until at least next year.

Would the transition happen in any case? Eleven years ago, the Scottish Government predicted that there would be 28,000 Scottish jobs in offshore wind alone by 2020. The latest workforce data shows that the number stands at 1,400. That is unsurprising, because a BBC report last week said that, if Cambo were to go ahead, there would be

“1,000 direct jobs in Scotland and 2,000 more in the supply chain”


“another 500 elsewhere in the UK.”

In contrast, the Viking Energy project—a “vast new wind farm” in Shetland—will have “35 permanent jobs” associated with it.

Last week in The Times, a Scottish National Party commentator anonymously said that it was

“hard to understand the political, economic or ecological logic of where the party risks being on this just now.”

It is far better to base our policy on evidence and reality than chase an agenda that would manage to cost jobs, harm the environment more and leave us dependent on undemocratic regimes for supply.

At decision time tonight, will MSPs—particularly north-east MSPs—follow the science and support their constituents, an industry that is worth £18 billion to the local economy, a fair and managed transition and my motion, or will they sacrifice them in favour of virtue signalling to appease their coalition partners? The north-east is watching.

I move,

That the Parliament supports new oil and gas projects, including Cambo, because a strong North Sea sector supporting tens of thousands of Scottish jobs is preferable to increasing energy imports during the transition to net zero.

I call the cabinet secretary, Michael Matheson, to speak to and move amendment S6M-01193.3 for up six minutes.


Thank you—[Interruption.]

Do we have a problem with the cabinet secretary’s microphone? Could the cabinet secretary maybe take the card out and push it all the way back in? We will see whether that works.

Michael Matheson

Thank you, Presiding Officer.

As the chamber knows, the oil and gas industry supports around 100,000 jobs in Scotland and, even as we transition away from fossil fuels, we know that it has a vital role to play in Scotland’s energy future.

The North Sea will continue to provide Scotland with an important level of domestic energy and, crucially, the infrastructure, skills and expertise of the sector can be a huge asset in helping us to achieve net zero. We believe that they will help Scotland to become a world leader in emerging technologies, such as hydrogen technology, carbon capture, utilisation and storage, and offshore wind.

We are presently in a transition from fossil fuels to renewable and low-carbon sources of energy, which we owe to the planet, and none of us can, or should try to, escape that responsibility. However, we need to transition in a way that is fair and just, which is why the Scottish Government is working with the energy sector in Scotland, including the oil and gas sector, not only to secure the environmental benefits of decarbonising our energy system but to seize the economic opportunities that the energy transition presents.

Our transition to net zero must be made in a way that is just for the workers, which is key, but also for the sector and our energy needs. Additionally, we need to manage that transition in a way that ensures that oil and gas developments are compatible with becoming a net zero society by 2045; that is why we have committed to undertaking a programme of work and analysis to better understand Scotland’s energy requirements and how they align with our climate change targets as we transition to net zero.

Members are aware of the recent scientific report from the IPCC that the secretary general of the United Nations described as a “code red for humanity”. The report confirms that the threats that global warming poses are already both immediate and severe. Without urgent action to reduce global emissions in line with the goals of the Paris agreement, those impacts will only accelerate. It therefore cannot be business as usual.

Does the member agree that the oil and gas industry has taken important steps to become more sustainable?

Michael Matheson


The evidence from the IPCC is clear: countries around the world cannot continue to pursue maximum economic recovery of fossil fuels if the Paris agreement goals are to be met—the International Energy Agency supports that position in its report from earlier this year. That is why the Scottish Government has asked the UK Government to commit to significantly enhancing the climate conditionality of offshore production and to reassess the licences that have already been issued, but through which field development has not yet commenced. Although that area is reserved, it is essential that the UK Government shows the necessary climate leadership in reassessing those licences.

Does the cabinet secretary not recognise that the UK has already put in place a £16 billion North Sea transition deal to facilitate exactly that process?

Michael Matheson

The member will recognise that the UK Government has conceded the point about the need to make sure that there is a climate compatibility checkpoint for new licences, so applying that same principle to existing licences that are not being developed is absolutely consistent with making sure that we meet our climate change obligations.

We are already making good progress in reducing Scotland’s reliance on fossil fuels, including through a substantial increase in our renewable energy capacity, targeting up to 11GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030, which is enough to power up to 8 million homes.

Renewable and low-carbon jobs cannot replace oil and gas jobs immediately, which is why we are committed to ending our contribution to climate change in a way that is just and leaves no-one behind. That is why in June this year, we announced £62 million for the energy transition fund, which focuses on supporting the energy sector to recover from the economic impact of Covid-19 and supporting investment in areas that can help us to move towards net zero.

We are also investing £500 million in the transition fund for the north-east and Moray, and I hope that members will support that tonight and join us in calling on the UK Government to match that investment.—[Interruption.]

The cabinet secretary is in his final 30 seconds.

Michael Matheson

That will support and accelerate the transition of the region and support the role of Aberdeen and the wider north-east of Scotland as a centre of excellence for the transition to net zero. As part of that work, we will look to reaffirm our commitment to a just transition through the just transition plans that we will implement.

A just transition is the right approach for Scotland, recognising our proud heritage and the continuing key role for the oil and gas industry, while expanding and developing our renewable energy sector and reducing our dependency on fossil fuels, and doing so in a way that also recognises our collective responsibility to tackle the global climate emergency.

I move amendment S6M-01193.3, to leave out from “supports” to end and insert:

“recognises how important the oil and gas industry, infrastructure, highly-skilled workforce and supply chain are to Scotland; agrees that countries around the world cannot continue to maximise recovery of hydrocarbons if the aims of the Paris Agreement are to be met; believes that Scotland and the UK cannot ignore the concern that unlimited extraction of fossil fuels is simply incompatible with protecting the planet; understands that the Scottish Government will undertake analysis to understand Scotland’s energy requirements as the country transitions to net-zero in line with the aims of the Paris Agreement; recognises the role that hydrogen, carbon capture, utilisation and storage can play in a just transition, so long as they are not used to justify unsustainable levels of fossil fuel extraction; welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to working with communities and those most impacted across Scotland, including the highly-skilled oil and gas workforce, to co-design the Transition Plan for Energy, and to taking forward a 10-year £500 million Just Transition Fund for the North East and Moray, and calls on the UK Government to match this investment, as well as reassess all existing licences for undeveloped fossil fuel extraction in light of the climate emergency.”


Monica Lennon (Central Scotland) (Lab)

I am pleased to open the debate on behalf of Scottish Labour. I refer to my entry in the register of members’ interests, as I am a member of Unite the Union and the GMB union.

I have five minutes in which to respond to a motion on one of the biggest issues that our planet faces, so I will try to make this as straightforward as possible. For many years, the biggest threat to our planet was climate change denial. Now, the biggest threat to our planet is climate change inaction. The message from climate scientists could not be clearer: if we are to limit global warming to 1.5ºC—the internationally agreed target of the Paris agreement—there can be no new oil and gas. That means no Cambo.

In May, the International Energy Agency’s report, which was commissioned by the UK Government ahead of COP26, stated that, in order to reach global net zero by 2050, there should be

“No new oil and gas fields approved for development.”

That means no Cambo.

We have heard that the UN Secretary General has called the IPCC’s report “code red for humanity”. He warned:

“This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.”

That means no Cambo. When report after report makes it clear that Cambo would be another nail in the coffin of our dying planet, we have a duty to call it out.

Will the member take an intervention?

Monica Lennon

I want to make some progress.

Without immediate action to reduce emissions, the consequences will include rising sea levels, the extinction of vulnerable species and a higher frequency of natural disasters. Pushing ahead with Cambo would be a betrayal of future generations.

Industrial and economic change is inevitable. It is our duty, as parliamentarians, to guarantee that change and decarbonisation delivers justice for workers. We need a managed and worker-led just transition, because we cannot allow a climate crisis to become a jobs crisis in the north-east or any other part of Scotland. That will require a relentless focus on meaningful, well paid and unionised jobs that are good for people and good for our planet. We just need the political will and courage to act.

Over the summer, I listened to workers and their trade unions. They expressed fears not only about the impacts of climate change, but about their jobs. Those fears are not mutually exclusive. They have good reason to be sceptical about the promises that politicians have made to them. The SNP’s green jobs fund has not yet delivered for workers and, so far, the green jobs workforce academy appears to be an underwhelming website with an impressive name. We know that we must do better.

History has taught us that the Tories do not do just transitions. Workers know that, which is why they are worried. Labour’s position is clear: Cambo must not go ahead, and nothing less than a green new deal will address the twin challenges of climate change and economic transition.

My Scottish Labour colleague Mercedes Villalba has proposed offshore training passports, which would allow oil and gas workers to move freely between offshore and onshore energy sectors, with standardised certification across roles. Such practical policies would give workers confidence. [Interruption.] I would rather give voice to workers than to Tories.

This debate coincides with the release of a landmark report from Friends of the Earth Scotland. Entitled “Watershed: the Turning Point for North Sea Oil and the Just Transition”, the report calls for the redirecting of the tax breaks and subsidies that have been offered to the oil and gas sector into funding a just transition. Notably, the report also recommends the creation of a publicly owned energy company in Scotland. The Tories do not support that, either. Scottish Labour and members of the SNP agree that such a move could turbocharge renewable energy generation and control spiralling heating bills. I urge the Scottish Government not to ditch or delay that proposal.

Earlier today, I hosted a well-attended parliamentary briefing on ecocide, with Jojo Mehta and Philippe Sands QC, who are distinguished international environmental and human rights campaigners. The ecocide proposal would criminalise the large-scale destruction of fragile ecosystems. It is a law that could one day apply to proposed developments such as Cambo.

Will the member give way?

Monica Lennon

I have only seconds left.

At the event, we were reminded that COP26 is around the corner. What will people see when they look at Scotland and the UK? Greta Thunberg said recently of Scotland:

“Of course there might be some politicians that are slightly less worse than others. That was very mean, but you get the point.”

We can and must do better. We need a managed, well-resourced just transition to unlock new economic opportunities. The Scottish Government needs to get off the fence. We will oppose the Tories’ motion at decision time. They are on the wrong side of history.

I move amendment S6M-01193.1, to leave out from “supports” to end and insert:

“believes that the development of the Cambo oil field would be at odds with Scotland’s aim of being net zero by 2045 and should not go ahead; considers that it is crucial that the transition to green sources of energy is jobs- and worker-led to retain and increase skilled jobs in Scotland; notes that the number of people directly employed in the low-carbon economy in Scotland is currently at its lowest level since 2014, at only 21,400, according to the latest available figures, and calls on the Scottish Government to use its powers over procurement, offshore windfarm licence approval and the Scottish National Investment Bank to secure and grow domestic supply chains for renewables, creating high-skilled, well-paying jobs across Scotland.”

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Liam McArthur—[Interruption.]. Take a seat, Mr McArthur.

There is a lot of chatter on the Conservative side of the chamber. We would like to hear every member.


Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I am used to that reaction as I clamber to my feet.

This Parliament voted into law a shared commitment to reaching net zero by 2045. As the UK Climate Change Committee has told us, meeting that target will involve

“transitioning almost entirely away from the unabated use of fossil fuels”.

That is the view of experts here and worldwide. I suspect that it is the view of most in the oil and gas sector. Therefore, decisions on the granting of additional licences for oil and gas extraction must be seen in the context of everything that we now understand about the climate emergency and the need to drive down our reliance on fossil fuels.

That is a difficult circle to square because, as the IPCC has warned us, we do not have the luxury of time. Every aspect of how we live needs to be sense checked in the light of the climate emergency, and that certainly includes the oil and gas sector. I simply cannot understand how the UK Government could consider pressing ahead with a decision on Cambo while bypassing its own climate checkpoint.

Will the member take an intervention?

Liam McArthur

Not at the moment, Mr Kerr.

We should not forget that we are talking about a licence that was first considered in 2001. Back in 2001, many still questioned the very existence of man-made climate change, but, back then, Bob the Builder’s version of “Mambo No 5” was sitting at the top of the charts. Thankfully, the world has moved on since then.

Scotland’s relationship with oil and gas goes beyond everyday reliance. It is not just the fuel that we use to heat our homes and drive our cars; communities have been built around it and livelihoods depend on it.

The industry needs to undergo a just transition, and those who work within it or who are reliant upon it deserve a just transition. They are skilled individuals and they remain absolutely critical to our success in developing the roles, businesses and industries that are needed to achieve our climate objectives. For that to happen, however, we need to see far more concerted and collaborative action by both of Scotland’s Governments to support people to reskill, retrain and move into more sustainable industries.

Too often, we see green jobs drift abroad. Without proper investment, robust planning and a just transition, many will go the same way in the future. The risk is that ministers will squander Scotland’s potential and leave communities and workers to pay the price in the move to a net zero economy. That would be a betrayal of those in the oil and gas sector.

Polling consistently shows an appetite within the workforce for making a switch but, so far, both the UK and Scottish Governments have failed to provide workers with the opportunities to change. Government support for a Scotland-wide just transition is essential if we are to avoid a repeat of the catastrophic carnage that was done to mining and steel communities in the 1970s and 1980s.

However, the creation of green jobs is only half of the equation. We still need a revolutionary overhaul in the demand for fossil fuels. Homes are still being built with gas boilers. Cars that run on petrol are still being manufactured. The vast majority of the around 2.5 million households in Scotland continue to leak heat from unsustainable systems such as gas boilers. In the meantime, sea levels are rising and the world is getting hotter.

After the sound and fury of this afternoon’s brief debate has passed, the Parliament will have to decide how it plans to honour our shared commitment—the one that we agreed unanimously not so long ago—to achieve net zero by 2045. That does call into question decisions over future oil and gas licences. It also demands a meaningful commitment by both UK and Scottish Governments to a just transition that is properly funded and properly targeted.

It is my pleasure to move amendment S6M-01193.2, to leave out from “supports” to end and insert:

“believes that, in the current circumstances, the licence for Cambo should not proceed; recognises that decisions taken over the next 10 years will either make the planet or break it; believes that every aspect of how people live needs to be sense checked in light of the climate emergency, and that this includes the oil and gas sector; notes the evidence that people in the industry would embrace new opportunities, but that both the Scottish and UK governments have failed to provide workers with the promised opportunities for green jobs, which are critical to their skills being redeployed as part of a just transition; notes the impact that this has had on communities connected to the oil and gas sector; recalls that the licence for Cambo was first considered in 2001, when the basic facts of global warming were still being regularly disputed, and believes that the climate checkpoint must be applied, given the understanding that now exists around the climate emergency and that the extraction of oil and gas cannot continue unabated.”

We move to the open debate. I remind members that speeches are to be of up to four minutes. There is no time in hand.


Brian Whittle (South Scotland) (Con)

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in what is a hugely important debate—and one that will continue long after this afternoon. I hope that we will make an awful lot more progress in this session of Parliament.

I will start from a position on which I think we all agree. We have an environmental crisis that is impacting the planet in ways that we cannot afford to ignore. There can surely be no debating the fact that we need to change how we create and consume energy. The drive towards net zero emissions and beyond has accelerated greatly recently and is now in the forefront of our minds in a way that would not have been considered even just a decade ago.

However, where I differ from the approach of some members of the Government is around the most effective and timeous way in which we can achieve that crucial goal. I believe that we will reach those targets through innovation, not by shutting down huge swathes of the economy as the Greens and the Scottish Government would have us do. Their approach is blinkered, devoid of any creativity and as far from reality as it could possibly be.

As my colleague Liam Kerr suggested, the petrochemical industry is about far more than simply burning fossil fuel. A significant proportion of oil is used in many other industries, not least in medicines, plastics and even the renewables sector itself—the list goes on and on. It is far too narrow to frame the debate just around fossil fuels.

How many of the 20 billion barrels of oil and gas in the North Sea will be required to produce medicine?

Brian Whittle

I will just pull that figure out of my back pocket—what a great question. What Mark Ruskell might not know is that, because of its grade, the oil in the North Sea is used for fossil fuel far less than that in the middle east.

We need the oil and gas industry if we are to reach our net zero target, and the industry was considering the issue way before it became fashionable to do so. Some 20 years ago, I was in the office of a major oil and gas company. While I was waiting to go into my meeting, I read its internal magazine, which told how its vice-president had stood up at its annual global conference and stated that his goal was for the company to be the number 1 supplier of renewable energy in the world within 50 years. The industry knew back then that it had to change its business model, and it has been doing that by investing in renewables companies and driving innovation—and not just in more efficient fuels.

Just yesterday, I spoke to an oil and gas company that listed the investments that it had made in the renewables sector and spoke about how it owns wind farms and has invested in wave energy management. I also spoke yesterday to a company that develops offshore wind, green hydrogen and wave energy technology. Its major investors are oil and gas companies. Such companies are investing billions of pounds in the renewables sector and clean energy research, and, with their research and development budgets, they can make the biggest difference. That is investment that Governments cannot replace. We should be working with those companies and encouraging their innovation, which will drive us towards a clean environment and a net zero economy. Shut down the industry and we shut down a major contributor to the future that we all want.

We need a replacement for our current energy supply. Moreover, as Liam Kerr said, we all need to consider how demand can be reduced—and we all have a part to play in that. These days, I think that the oil and gas industry can be legitimately renamed energy supply companies. It would be absurd to just switch off that investment in renewables tech. It is time that the Scottish Government started working with those companies instead of continually vilifying them, to ensure that innovation is not stifled as we drive the crucial green economy.


Jenni Minto (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)

I refer members to my entry in the register of interests and my interest in Islay Energy Community Benefit Society.

The Tory motion can only delay our journey to net zero. We must be ambitious and reject it. Scotland has a responsibility to meet our climate obligations while ensuring a secure energy supply and supporting our highly skilled workforce to transition to the green jobs of the future. The SNP-Green Scottish Government is wholly committed to ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change by 2045, and to ensuring that we do that in a way that is just and leaves no one behind.

I am listening very carefully. Where would the member source the oil and gas to meet demand?

Jenni Minto

I understand that Scotland is a net exporter of energy.

Scotland should be proud of the action that has been taken so far. Emissions are down by 51.5 per cent since the 1990 baseline. In 2020, 95.9 per cent of gross electricity consumption came from renewable sources. Renewable energy capacity is 11.9GW and there is 14.6GW of renewable energy capacity in development.

In its autumn 2020 report, the Climate Change Committee said of Scotland’s progress that

“the Scottish economy has decarbonised more quickly than the rest of the UK, and faster than any G20 economy since 2008. Emissions have fallen rapidly while the economy has grown.”

The Scottish Government recognises that challenges remain. Ending our contributing to climate change will require transformational change from every element of society.

I went to the University of Aberdeen and gained my accountancy qualification there in the early 1990s, so I know about the importance of the oil and gas industry to the north-east of Scotland. Many companies that I have audited are related to the oil industry—supply boats, rig management companies and equipment repair and supply companies—and employ thousands of skilled men and women. Now is the time to harness their skills and experience for a just transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

In July, I visited Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior when she was docked at Leith. I remember the news stories of her crews protesting at North Sea oil rigs in the 1980s, but now Greenpeace is working with oil rig workers to promote a just transition. Together, they have produced a short film, “Rigged: A Worker’s Story”, which includes interviews with former offshore workers. One of them said:

“I don’t think we are going to have a great planet until we do things because it’s the right thing to do, rather than because it is profitable”.

Those are salient words, and words that Tory members should perhaps heed.

I support the Scottish Government’s view that the opening of new oil fields, including Cambo, must be reassessed in the light of the climate emergency that we now face, so I was pleased that the First Minister wrote to Westminster to ask the UK Government to think again.

The stark warning from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the climate emergency poses a severe threat and heightened risk to the planet is a powerful reminder that we all must do more to deliver a just transition.

The green jobs workforce academy will help to assess people’s current skills and help them to undertake the necessary upskilling or reskilling. The knowledge and experience of the oil and gas sector and its supply chain will be so important in developing the essential low-carbon technology.

As I said in the chamber last week, in my Argyll and Bute constituency the renewables industry is blossoming. Renewable energy support industries are also establishing themselves. Renewable Parts Ltd, for example, is an innovator in the wind-energy supply chain in Scotland. The company is based in Renfrewshire and in Argyll and Bute and has created a refurbishment and remanufacture supply chain that is creating new jobs in the green energy industry, with skills that are critical to the growth of the circular economy.

Oil and gas are finite, but wind and tides are not. It will come one way or another, sooner or later: the writing is on the wall for oil and gas. The Scottish Government is determined to use the hard-won skills of our oil and gas industries to make Scotland a green powerhouse, with a transition to a greener future—a just transition.


Michael Marra (North East Scotland) (Lab)

I draw members’ attention to my entry in the register of members’ interests: I am a member of the GMB union.

This is a welcome debate about how we can remake our Scottish economy to ensure the future prosperity of our country. Industry—which puts wages in pockets, food on tables and taxes into our public services—must grow, rather than recede.

No economic issue is of more importance to this country than the future of the North Sea. That concerns not just my Aberdonian constituents, but every Scot. It is about Mossmorran, Grangemouth and the defence industry of the Forth and Clyde valleys. It is about our tax take, our balance of payments, our energy security, our food system, our global security positioning and our role in Europe and the world. It is about our recent past and, which is much more important, our long-term future.

We are all clear that the nature of North Sea industries must, like all economies, change over time. The current transition is necessitated by crisis and it is urgent; the physical effects of climate change are becoming ever clearer. Net zero requires a 12 per cent reduction in global energy sector combustion emissions, but given rebounding demand, we are now on track for a 3 per cent overall increase. We must think and act differently.

Opening up whole new oil fields would demand business solutions for rapid extraction. Instead, we must clean up extraction in current fields. Doing that work promises far longer gains in innovation, technologies and exports for Scotland. We must tell investors, regulators, researchers and workers that future growth is in new sectors that grow alongside oil and gas.

The UKCCC makes it clear that there will and must be a long-term need for oil and gas extraction. Continued production is baked into any reality-based transition to net zero. The Net Zero Technology Centre has set out a compelling vision of a future for Scotland in which integrated offshore renewables, hydrogen and carbon capture can offer a cumulative £38 billion opportunity, in comparison with the £15 billion contribution from the maturing basin today.

We must act now to avert climate breakdown and to seize such opportunities. When the pace must be quickened, how do we find some semblance of security and hope for our energy workers? Robert J Gordon, in his masterful work, “The Rise and Fall of American Growth”, makes it clear that in technology transitions throughout history, education and reskilling follow opportunity; they do not cause opportunity, and training will not pre-empt innovation. People will retrain when there is a job to go into. Government’s job is to ensure that the state covers the cost of bridging the gap.

Members have mentioned the SNP’s risible record in renewables jobs and its complete failure to capture the first generation of the supply chain. I listened when Alex Salmond told us that we would be the “Saudi Arabia of renewables” and when he compared himself to Labour’s Tom Johnson, who transformed our economy after the war. The difference is that Tom Johnson did things, rather than tell grandiose lies that undermine the long-term confidence of workers such as the people who were promised the renewables jobs in Dundee that came to nothing.

Liam Kerr

The member’s comments are interesting. Dave Moxham, of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, told the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee the other week:

“There will never be the intensity of jobs across the offshore wind sector that there is in offshore oil and gas.”—[Official Report, Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, 7 September 2021; c 23.]

Does the member have a solution? What can he propose that will answer that challenge?

You have 20 seconds left, Mr Marra.

Michael Marra

I will try to get everything in. The answer is certainly about having a broader mix of industries and putting in place the electrical grid, including sub-sea. Change is required for export from existing oil and gas facilities. A wide range of hydrogen and carbon capture can be the answer, in part. There is intense activity in that regard and there are far greater opportunities for us to export around the world.

Labour’s focus is where it has always been: on jobs, on wages and on the future of Scotland. On those issues, it is high time that the Government got serious.


Maurice Golden (North East Scotland) (Con)

I will focus my remarks on our transition to net zero. It is important to remember that all parties in Parliament agree that we need to be serious and to take sustained action on climate change. We agree on net zero, on building a sustainable economy and on ensuring a just transition to that new economy. There is nothing new in our finding common cause on climate change.

The Scottish Conservatives led Opposition parties in defeating the SNP Government on the call for energy efficiency targets to be brought forward. The Greens and, belatedly, Labour support our call for a moratorium on new incinerators. Of course, I trust that the Greens still hold that position, now that they are in coalition with the SNP, which is—given its level of ambition—perhaps the worst-performing Government in the world when it comes to tackling climate change.

The level of inaction from the nationalist Government makes co-operation in Parliament increasingly difficult. Despite repeated warnings from me and colleagues including Claudia Beamish and Mark Ruskell, the SNP Government has refused to listen and is instead allowing the failures to pile up. On its emissions target, it has failed. On its green jobs target, it has failed. On its recycling target, it has failed. On its fuel poverty target, it has failed. On its renewable heat target, it has failed. Given the time that is available, I cannot go on. I simply note that, with Scotland hosting the 26th United Nations conference of the parties—COP26—those failures will soon become an international embarrassment for the SNP-Green coalition.

On recycling, the Government is actually going backwards—the recycling rate is lower now than it was in 2016. In Dundee, the SNP council is promising a 70 per cent recycling rate by 2025, yet the Government’s slow progress means that that will take until at least 2040. Glasgow—another SNP-run city, and the host of COP26—is in the midst of a cleansing crisis and cannot even manage a 25 per cent recycling rate. What will world leaders make of that? What will they make of this nationalist Government’s having broken its promise to ban biodegradable waste going to landfill and deciding just to burn it instead? Under the SNP, incineration capacity has ballooned by 400 per cent. Scotland needs a Government that will deliver policies to tackle climate change—not the empty rhetoric that is the SNP mantra.

The UK Government has stepped up to the plate and has launched the North Sea transition deal, which includes early reductions in offshore production emissions, investment of up to £16 billion by 2030 in new energy technologies and a 60 million tonnes reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Paul McLennan (East Lothian) (SNP)

Claire Mack, the chief executive of Scottish Renewables, has said that the current transmission charging system is

“entirely contrary to ... the net zero agenda”,

and she called on the UK Government to act without delay to address the outdated scheme. Can Maurice Golden address that point?

Maurice Golden

Yes, I can. I worked as a transmission policy analyst at the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets on that very aspect.

The SNP’s problem in that regard is that it is arguing for a reduction in transmission charges for generators, many of which are big businesses, and for an increase in the cost to consumers. That is how transmission charging policy works. The SNP, which has failed to eradicate fuel poverty, is now arguing for a policy of increasing transmission charges to customers in Scotland. That is quite unbelievable.

Mr Golden, I hope that you are coming to a conclusion.

Maurice Golden

Okay, Presiding Officer.

Public support, parliamentary goodwill and the economic might of our United Kingdom—they are all there to help us to reach net zero. I want us to protect oil and gas jobs, to secure a just transition and to deliver on our net zero targets.


Gillian Martin (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)

I like to listen to the BBC radio series “The Listening Project”. It has a simple format: two people in a room have a chat about a topic, and this week’s edition was pertinent to today’s debate. Keith, an oil and gas sector geologist from Aberdeen, was having a conversation with Peter, who had been a miner in North Yorkshire, and the subject was energy transition. On the one hand, we had a man who had not been involved in a just transition and, on the other, a man who was on the cusp of a transition and was mulling over his part in it. Keith said what many of my constituents have said to me: affordable, secure and increasingly sustainable jobs are needed.

I have said in the chamber many times that my family owes a lot to oil and gas and that many livelihoods have depended on it. My family’s experience is replicated in those of tens of thousands of my constituents, and I understand their fears about the fluctuating nature of the industry and the new energy future that is in front of them.

When I was elected in 2016, the oil and gas sector was in the middle of a downturn and thousands of my constituents were losing their jobs. Geopolitics was reverberating around the doors of Aberdeenshire. Then, as now, people told me that they wanted secure employment. At the time, I relayed in Parliament the testimony of many people who arrived to work at oil and gas offices at 8 am, only to be out in the car park with their belongings in a box by 9 am—families with mortgage arrears and families being referred to food banks. One of my constituents was phoned on his 50th birthday to be told that, after 30 years’ service, he would not be returning in a helicopter to his production platform the next week. Transition has been on the minds of oil and gas workers for many years and for many reasons.

Later in that radio broadcast, Keith made a point that is key to the future of oil and gas in Scotland. He said:

“Hydrocarbons are too good to burn. We’ll need them for other things.”

I am on record saying this many times in the Parliament: it is the application not the extraction that is the issue.

We need systems that do not burn hydrocarbons. We will continue to need fossil fuels as feedstock for chemicals and manufacturing well into the future. I would much rather that that feedstock comes from our domestic supply, where it is produced with the best health and safety controls in the world, where the emissions from that production have been driven down and where the environmental controls and impact analyses are robust. I do not want to export our emissions as we import that feedstock to meet our current needs. That will not help our economy or our planet.

I see the future north-east having a mix of hydrocarbons, renewables, energy innovation and life sciences as our core sectors. I am in the middle of a listening project of my own in the form of a report on a survey on transition that I ran over summer. The constituents I spoke to are not talking about Cambo or future exploration; they urge us to take down the barriers to transition that they are experiencing now. They want us to take action on making training affordable, recognising the skills and certification that oil and gas workers already have and walking the walk on transferability. The £500 million that the Scottish Government announced for just transition in the north-east is action.

I look forward to applying my ideas and those of my constituents to deploying that. [Interruption.] I do not know whether I have time.

The member is in her last 30 seconds.

Gillian Martin

The solution to our economic and environmental aspirations is neither to exploit the North Sea until the oil runs dry nor to leave it in the ground. The solutions are nuanced and complex, and our mutual constituents deserve our political conversations about the issue to be informed and to take account of that complexity.

To give it its due, the UK Government’s climate compatibility checkpoint does that and is in line with Nicola Sturgeon’s comments on the issue of new fields. However, seven years ago, people on the Conservative benches told us that the oil was running out, but now the tune has changed. It is there and it has great value, but the real issue is what do we do with it. That is the fundamental issue that both Governments need to act on for the good of the people and the planet.


Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

Liam Kerr advised us at the beginning of the debate to listen to the science, so I will quote some people who understand the science and have reflected on it. The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has said recently that countries should

“end all new fossil fuel exploration and production and shift fossil fuel subsidies into renewable energy.”

That is not happening under UK Government policy. Dr Fatih Birol, who is executive director of the International Energy Agency, has said:

“If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now—from this year.”

Again, that is not happening under UK Government policy. Lord Deben, who is chair of the UK Climate Change Committee and a former UK Government minister, told Mr Kerr at the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee a couple of weeks ago that

“the justification for any new oil and gas exploration or production has to be very strong indeed, and I cannot say that I have seen that so far.”—[Official Report, Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, 31 August; c 20.]

No such case has been presented for Cambo or the continued exploration and extraction of fossil fuels.

Countries around the world are recognising that an oil and gas transition needs a clear destination to transition to. They know that a just transition needs to start years in advance. Otherwise, there is a risk of a sudden deferred collapse of jobs in the future.

The launch of the beyond oil and gas alliance, spearheaded by the Danish and Costa Rican Governments and now involving France, New Zealand, Spain and many more countries, will mark a watershed moment at COP26. Those are states that have turned the corner and are committing to no more oil and gas development. The Scottish Government should join in that conversation in Glasgow and should look to accelerate our own just transition.

The Green-Scottish Government co-operation agreement commits to answering two critical questions, which the cabinet secretary referred to in his opening comments. [Interruption.] I want to make a little bit of progress first. The first of those questions is how much oil and gas we can afford to burn while staying aligned with the objectives of the Paris agreement. The second question is what, given what we can afford to burn, our domestic demand for oil and gas will be in the years ahead as we make progress in decarbonising our society.

Those are questions that cannot be answered by the oil and gas sector by itself, because it will always be driven by a UK licensing policy of maximum economic recovery of every last drop from every last reserve. Again, I welcome the comments from the cabinet secretary at the beginning of the debate about some of the flaws in that policy of maximum economic recovery, which is incompatible with the climate crisis. [Interruption.] I am running out of time—I am sorry.

Those are critical questions, which must be answered not by sectoral interests but by Governments, and the answers will depend on the level of ambition and the actual progress in delivering decarbonisation and energy demand reduction across the whole of the UK. I am certain that any such assessment that is done will show Cambo to be superfluous to our domestic energy needs and utterly incompatible with the Paris agreement. It is clear that Cambo must not go ahead.

However, Cambo is just the tip of the melting iceberg. If we are serious about staying in alignment with Paris, some of the 6.6 billion barrels of existing oil and gas reserves will have to stay in the ground, too, alongside the 13.4 billion barrels that the sector wants to develop. Those must stay out of reach.

Our co-operation agreement is a great starting point for a real just transition, with a £500 million deal for the north-east and a new sector deal for onshore wind. This is where the real grown-up debate needs to be in the Parliament. It needs to be about how we manage the just transition and how we protect people and planet. I look forward to the Government making progress in the months and years ahead.

Michelle Thomson will be the last speaker in the open debate.


Michelle Thomson (Falkirk East) (SNP)

When I read the motion I was struck by how simple the Tories perceived this issue to be, compared with the SNP amendment that was lodged by Michael Matheson. I have spoken previously about the complexity of climate change and the ambitious policy responses that are required. Only last week I spoke about setting measurable net zero ambitions for public sector pensions, and I was pleased to see SNP councillors in Falkirk pushing for that, albeit without the support of either Labour or Tory councillors.

The Scottish Government has published its detailed response to the original just transition commission, which seeks to work with all the key stakeholder groups, such as trade unions, businesses and communities. Let me briefly set out some of areas that business may need to consider, illustrating both the complexity and the effort required. Any significant transformational change must be driven from the top of the organisation, and the board must develop a clear vision and a strategy. That strategy will have input provided from all divisions or departments, and it will likely involve a number of iterations to ensure that the key themes are aligned. Arguably, that is the easy bit. The vision must be sufficiently compelling to bring all employees on board, given that it could fundamentally change the nature of the company and its operational model. That term usually sounds warning bells for employees, as it could involve changes to jobs or the loss of them.

Alongside that is either developing or keeping pace with innovation, or new, rapidly developing technologies. We cannot forget the significant funding requirements, developed in an uncertain cash-flow environment.

As I know from my previous career, most large, so-called transformational change programmes fail. They do not take people with them, they often fail to take cognisance of the culture of the organisation and, regrettably, senior executives often lose interest.

If I sound a little bleak, please forgive me. The steps that I have outlined are for one company. To reach net zero, multiple companies and multiple stakeholders—[Interruption.] No, I will not give way. Multiple companies and multiple stakeholders in multiple states must change.

My constituency includes Grangemouth, and I am following the progress of the Grangemouth future industry board with interest. Demand for hydrocarbon-based products must decrease but, as other members have mentioned, there are considerable opportunities for a hydrogen economy—[Interruption.] I will not give way today, thank you. There are considerable opportunities for a hydrogen economy encompassing both energy storage and sources of fuel for transport, as well as sustainable feedstocks. We have to remember that Scotland does not simply seek to export power; rather, we want to create the added value, jobs and wealth here.

As has been mentioned, it is a global challenge, but there are considerable vested interests that act against the leadership and ambitious change that are required. Our financial system has mostly been predicated on the endless drive for profit, with boards and trustees alike having to commit to that. However, in a world of finite resource, the endless focus on profit is simply not sustainable. Embedding sustainability is another significant challenge.

We must keep who the change is for at the forefront of our minds. Who could fail to be moved by the concerns expressed in the recent study that was led by the University of Bath, in which a statistically significant survey covering 10,000 young people showed that around 75 per cent of them are fearful for their future? Those young people are the future, and we must remember that our decisions today affect their future tomorrow. Hearing their voices is vital, so I was delighted to see that Scotland stepped up to the plate, and the Scottish Government will host the COP26 youth climate conference.


Beatrice Wishart (Shetland Islands) (LD)

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate, given the direct interest that my constituency has in the questions at hand. I declare an interest in that regard.

I am disappointed by how much the debate has focused on the north-east, just as the Scottish Government’s £500 million just transition fund did a couple of weeks ago. It is not only the north-east that needs to transition. My family is like many others in Shetland, with members working at the Sullom Voe oil terminal, or offshore in the North Sea. There are also Shetland seafarers employed on oil supply vessels. When oil was first discovered in the North Sea, Shetland adapted to change, and now the islands are looking to the future. They are ready and willing to play their part in another transformation, but they need support to do so.

Renewable projects are in the works—the potential is there—but we cannot just throw people who have built their lives around the oil industry on the scrap heap. I would like to see a new, northern isles just transition commission, to ensure that the islands are not forgotten in future debates such as this. We have specific needs and unique opportunities, which risk being lost in among the politicking that we have seen here today.

As Shetland’s MSP, I recognise that the licence for Cambo has been in the works for 20 years. Investment and highly skilled, highly paid jobs are associated with it. Although the demands of the climate emergency mean that the need to move away from oil and gas could not be clearer, questions about how and when that happens are not so easily answered.

Even when we meet our hugely ambitious emissions reduction targets, which the SNP has failed to reach in recent years, some small amounts of fossil fuels will still be needed. The UK Climate Change Committee says that some oil will still be needed on the pathway to net zero. The CCC is respected, and its expertise and independence are an asset to the country. It does not play politics on the issue, nor does it ignore its responsibility to help the country to navigate a way to net zero.

There are two tests that I believe the UK and Scottish Governments both currently fail. To make real progress on carbon emissions from oil and gas, we need to grow the renewable alternatives and reduce demand. On that, the SNP has emphatically failed. Transport is an example. It is Scotland’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and in 2018, it accounted for 36 per cent of total emissions, having barely reduced since 1990. Car travel has been on the increase since the end of world war 2, and the SNP’s active travel targets have crumbled. Without a real reduction in demand, it does not matter whether we license more projects, because our country will continue to run on fumes. The only question will be whether they come from the Cambo oilfield or from Russia.

That is why the UK Government’s decision to abandon the climate compatibility checkpoint is so difficult to understand. If communities that depend on oil and gas are to navigate their way towards a net zero future, the questions that climate checkpoints and other such mechanisms must reasonably pose must be handled properly, drawing out answers grounded in science. If the Cambo licence cannot pass the basic tenets of the checkpoint, there are reasonable questions to be answered about whether it should be granted. Politicians ignoring the rising seas will not do the industry or the people behind it any good.

Mercedes Villalba will wind up for Labour. You have up to four minutes, Ms Villalba.


Mercedes Villalba (North East Scotland) (Lab)

With this motion, the Scottish Tories seek to exploit workers and communities who are concerned about their future. The motion is unrealistic, lacks credibility and offers no new ideas on how we tackle the climate emergency and deliver a just transition for those most affected by climate change. In just a few weeks, Scotland is due to host COP26, and the eyes of the world will be upon us. How could we vote to back the Cambo oilfield—[Interruption.]—when all the signs point to it having a hugely detrimental impact on our environment?

Passing the Labour amendment would signal a clear intention to take decisive action on climate change, create green jobs and develop a green industrial base. We can no longer accept Scottish Government inaction in the face of the escalating climate emergency. Years ago, the Scottish Government promised to deliver 130,000 green jobs by this year, but it has delivered only just over 21,000; it also pledged to create a publicly owned energy company, but it has now backed out of that as well. For all the talk of investment, the Scottish Government has failed to develop the green industrial base that we need; and despite its commitment to achieve net zero by 2045, it continues to refuse to clarify its position on Cambo.

I was pleased to hear Jenni Minto express in her speech her personal opposition to Cambo. Like her, I attended the Rainbow Warrior event by Greenpeace in July, where her colleague Paul McLennan also voiced his opposition to Cambo. The Scottish Government and its ministers need to make a choice: to stand with the Tories and the multinational companies that pollute our planet for private profit; or to stand with climate campaigners, workers, its own back benchers and its co-operation partners in calling for a just transition.

At First Minister’s question time last week, the First Minister expressed her willingness to consider developing an offshore training passport for oil and gas workers. However, last night, I received a response from the just transition minister that appeared to suggest that there is no desire to introduce an offshore training passport as part of the just transition fund. To be honest, we are all sick of empty rhetoric that never matches reality. Now is the time for the Scottish Government to get off the fence, oppose Cambo and support the Labour amendment for a worker-led transition.

Richard Lochhead, the Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work will wind up for the Scottish Government. You have up to five minutes, minister.


The Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work (Richard Lochhead)

I welcome the Conservative Party bringing the debate to the Parliament. The debate is about a major sector in Scotland, the future of the Scottish economy and the fortunes of many families and individuals in our country, as well as the future of humankind and our planet.

The recent scientific report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows the very real threat and heightened risk that the climate emergency poses to the planet. It also makes it clear that, with immediate concerted international action to reduce emissions, the global temperature rise could still be limited to the Paris agreement aim of 1.5°C in the longer term. That is an urgent call to action for all and it simply cannot be business as usual. Therefore, it is disappointing to read the terms of the motion that has led to the debate because, a few weeks before COP26 comes to Scotland, the Conservative Party has lodged a motion that says that we should support the extraction of fossil fuels, irrespective of whether that is compatible with Scotland’s net zero ambitions and targets. It is an embarrassment to the Conservative Party.

Finlay Carson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)

Given the on-going need to heat our houses in Scotland, there will be demand for fossil fuels in the future. Would he rather that those fossil fuels were taken out of the ground in Scotland or taken out of the ground elsewhere in the world, where that would have a higher carbon footprint?

Richard Lochhead

[Inaudible.]—the just transition to our 2045 net zero targets and make sure that it is a just transition that addresses issues that the member raises.

I do not understand Liam Kerr’s position; he seems to be all over the place. Just couple of days ago he asked me a written question:

“To ask the Scottish Government whether it plans to establish a fund to support island and rural communities to end their reliance on fossil fuels”.—[Written Answers, 26 August 2021; S6W-02566.]

On the one hand, the motion that says that new developments should get the green light and go ahead irrespective of whether they are compatible with the 2045 net zero target and, on the other hand, he supports communities that want to end their use of fossil fuels to help save the planet and their future. We should be focusing on the just transition and the energy transition, which is the biggest part of that just transition, given the reliance on jobs in the energy sector in this country. A number of announcements have been made, and there are signs that hundreds of thousands of green jobs can be created in our country, so that we can make sure that we have that just transition.

Will the minister take an intervention?

Will the minister take an intervention?

I will take an intervention from Liam Kerr, because it is his debate.

Liam Kerr

I am very grateful and I apologise to my colleague, Maurice Golden. The Green Party manifesto wanted to stop carbon capture and funding for things such as the Net Zero Technology Centre. Now that they are part of a coalition Government, is that the minister’s position?

Richard Lochhead

Liam Kerr will be familiar with the SNP-Green co-operation agreement, which clearly outlines the position on that; he should read the agreement, because that is the Scottish Government’s policy. With regard to the number of jobs that could be created in Scotland, it is exciting; it is a massive opportunity for our economy and the future of Scotland, not only to create hundreds of thousands of green jobs here but to export our expertise and knowledge, particularly from the oil and gas industry, to the rest of the planet and economies around the world. [Interruption.] I have already taken two interventions.

We have to make the most of the transition and focus on that, because that is the key to reaching our net zero targets. The Robert Gordon University “UK Offshore Energy Workforce Transferability Review” said that by 2030—not 2045—200,000 jobs could exist in the offshore energy sector, with the number of jobs in the decarbonised part of that sector rising from 20 to 65 per cent; in addition, 90 per cent of those jobs can come from people who work in oil and gas and have transferable skills. The Scottish Government’s “Scottish hydrogen: assessment report” says that the number of jobs that could be treated to hydrogen could range from 70,000 to 300,000. Just recently, the First Minister visited Scottish Power, which announced more green jobs in Scotland; the oil and gas industry, which is at the heart of success for a just transition, is planning to create tens of thousands of green jobs in the Scottish economy between now and 2030 and between 2030 and 2045. Just a couple of days ago, I met senior management at TotalEnergies in Aberdeen, and the company has really exciting plans for the future. Its website says:

“We are reinventing and diversifying our energy offering to promote renewable and decarbonized energies”

and that

“we are also encouraging our customers to change their consumption habits, prefer energy efficiency and turn to low-carbon solutions first.”

If TotalEnergies is reinventing itself in light of the climate emergency, I suggest that the Scottish Conservative Party also reinvents itself, gets behind the national effort to have a just transition and create hundreds of thousands of green jobs in this country, work in partnership and help save humankind and the planet.


Douglas Lumsden (North East Scotland) (Con)

This is a vital debate, especially for the north-east of Scotland. One reason why it is so important is that the public can see what all the parties’ positions are in relation to supporting the energy industry and the vital jobs in the north-east. The amendments that have been lodged make the position of most of the other parties pretty clear.

With Monica Lennon’s amendment, we can see that, although Labour has readmitted its nine Aberdeen councillors, it has turned its back on the rest of the north-east. Similarly, the Liberal Democrats have also abandoned places such as Aberdeen, Montrose and Lerwick, which rely heavily on the oil and gas sector. However, to be fair to Labour and the Liberal Democrats, at least we know where they stand.

From the SNP, we see deflect, dither and delay. The cabinet secretary is sitting on what must be an uncomfortable fence, trying to please everyone but pleasing no one. The aim of the SNP amendment is to appease the Greens and nothing else. It sells out Scotland and it sells out Aberdeen. It will please China and Russia, which will benefit no end, as Liam Kerr pointed out in his speech.

The oil and gas industry has been and continues to be the lifeblood of Aberdeen’s economy, and the north-east is at the cutting edge of good practice and technological excellence in oil and gas recovery. The engineering and manufacturing talents cannot be allowed to go to waste.

Aberdeen is the energy capital of Europe, powering our industry, lighting our businesses, warming our homes and making sure that our trains run on time—unless it is a Sunday. The sector also plays a leading role around the world, with personnel from Aberdeen leading development projects throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, sharing best practice and technological excellence across the globe.

As a result, the oil and gas industry has been one of the most important contributors to the Scottish economy. However, the industry is not just a success story of the past; it has a bright future in a more eco-conscious world.

The UK was the first major economy to embrace a legally binding obligation to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Scotland’s oil and gas industry is fully committed to supporting the Scottish Government in meeting its ambitious net zero goal by 2045.

Companies in Aberdeen are changing and adapting, investing millions of pounds in cleaner technology and leading the world in that field. They should not be stamped out of business before that can happen. The engineering capabilities and essential expertise is too valuable to lose—even the cabinet secretary recognises that.

If we were to close the North Sea fields and end the energy industry in Aberdeen, as some in the Scottish Government are now calling for, what would be the alternative? [Interruption.] The SNP’s Green colleagues seemed to suggest that.

As Liam Kerr said, 75 per cent of our current energy needs are met from oil and gas. Renewables would not be able to close the gap fast enough, especially if we cause economic carnage to our engineering base in the north-east. We would be forced to rely on imports, increasing our carbon footprint as transport emissions leap up and increasing the energy bills of struggling families up and down the country.

If Scotland’s oil and gas industry was shut down immediately, as some new members of the Scottish Government wish, the result would be nothing short of catastrophic.

Gillian Martin

I am really concerned about Douglas Lumsden’s assertion that members of the Scottish Government have said that the oil and gas industry should be shut down. I would like him to point to quotes that show that that is the case, if he is going to make such assertions.

Douglas Lumsden

I think that Patrick Harvie is on record saying that the oil and gas industry needs to “transition or die”. That type of language is not helpful to the industry.

If Scotland’s oil and gas industry was shut down immediately, hard-working men and women, who are highly skilled and capable, would be left with no hope of work, made redundant long before any greener job alternatives were made available to them. Those are the workers we need for transition.

Let us look at what the Cambo development in particular means to the Scottish economy. It would mean 1,000 direct jobs—Labour is obviously against those jobs. It would mean thousands more jobs supported through the supply chain, more than £1 billion of capital investment in the UK over the next five years and an extra £1 billion in additional support costs over the life of the field. Some £140 million has already been invested. The Scottish Government wants to flush all that down the drain. It is not just people who are employed directly through the supply chain who benefit from such investment, given that taxi drivers, restaurants, hotels and shops all depend on it.

Richard Lochhead

Is it not best to protect those jobs and create new jobs by having a just transition between now and 2045? Can the member tell Parliament where the Conservative Party’s concern for jobs was when it shut down the coal mines?

Douglas Lumsden

I am coming on to parts of that.

We are not voting on our ambition to become a net zero nation. As Maurice Golden said, we are all agreed on that. Instead, we are voting on where the oil and gas will come from. We need that oil and gas now, and we will need it for the next 20 years. The UK is a net importer of oil and gas. We are transitioning to renewables, but that takes time and investment. I welcome the UK Government’s £16 billion North Sea transition deal, which the Scottish Government should perhaps match.

Just now, we have a choice. We can produce the oil and gas ourselves—thereby protecting thousands of jobs in this country—but regulate how it is produced and the impact on the environment, and ensure that the production is carried out with the lowest possible carbon footprint. We can invest in developing new technologies and we can innovate and learn how to do things differently. We can lead the way on cleaner energy production, share that learning internationally and become a world leader in transition.

Mr Lumsden, will you please bring your remarks to a close?

I will.

Alternatively, we can do what other parties are proposing and protect jobs in China and Russia, transport oil and gas halfway round the world—

I meant what I said—please bring your remarks to a close.

Douglas Lumsden

That is why I support the motion in Liam Kerr’s name. It sends a clear message that we will support jobs and welcome investment, that we support a cleaner and greener energy sector, and that we will not abandon the people of the north-east of Scotland.