Published in Oil Industry News on Tuesday, 21 February 2017
Labour is to debate a call for the UK and Scottish governments to bring key North Sea assets into public ownership to prevent oil and gas reserves being “turned off prematurely”.
The party is to demand action from Holyrood and Westminster to help the industry, which has been struggling since the slump in oil prices.
It comes amid fears that more than 100,000 workers in the sector have lost their jobs.
A motion to be discussed at the Scottish Labour conference in Perth on Friday urges the SNP Government in Edinburgh and the Tory administration in London to “agree a co-investment plan to support the industry, taking a public stake where necessary, to protect vital offshore infrastructure”.
This could see both platforms and pipelines bought up and brought into the public sector.
The motion, which has been put forward by the Aberdeen South and North Kincardine branch of the party, calls for action from ministers to “maximise the opportunities from future decommissioning”.
North East MSP Lewis Macdonald said: ” Labour has put forward a positive plan to secure the future of our oil and gas industry.
“By supporting this motion, Scottish Labour will reaffirm its commitment to protecting the north-east’s reputation as the energy capital of Europe. Government intervention could ensure that the North Sea taps are not turned off prematurely.
“As well as protecting the jobs of today, we will also fight to ensure Scotland has a comprehensive decommissioning strategy so the North Sea can continue to deliver jobs for the next generation.”
Mr Macdonald said his party’s stance is ” in contrast to the SNP and the Tories, who have been all at sea in their response to the oil price downturn”.
He added: ” The nationalists were happy to parade the strengths of the oil and gas industry during their doomed separation drive. Now it seems they are happy to let the North Sea flounder.”
A spokesman for the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: ” We’ve already provided extensive support in response to falling oil prices through a £2.3 billion package of measures, and committed £40 million to new seismic studies to help uncover more opportunities.
“This was only made possible because of the broad shoulders of the wider UK economy.”
A spokesman for Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: ” We have long called for reform to the North Sea fiscal regime, including improved access to decommissioning tax relief, protecting critical pieces of infrastructure and greater support for exploration.
“And we have repeatedly demanded action from UK ministers, who retain the key economic levers over the sector, to ensure the industry and its workforce have the future they deserve. When we called for further support for North Sea workers in advance of the UK Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, Labour were presumably too busy fighting their own internal battles, because any support from them for our calls to help the industry was nowhere to be heard.
“Labour are also talking nonsense on the issue of Scottish Government support for workers affected by the oil industry downturn. Our Transition Training Fund has already directly supported over 1,500 individuals made redundant, in addition to more than 700 further individuals being helped through two formal training procurement rounds.
“We will continue to work with the sector through the Oil and Gas Industry Leadership Group, the Energy Jobs Taskforce, the newly launched £180 million Oil & Gas Technology Centre, through our enterprise agencies and through the delivery of the £12 million TTF itself. Co-operation and innovation are on the up, oil prices are improving, production costs are lower and, crucially, production has increased – for the first time in over 15 years.”