Oil and Gas Industry (Jobs)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 10 February 2016.

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Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

13. To ask the Scottish Government how many jobs in Scotland it estimates have been lost as a result of the downturn in the oil and gas industry. (S4O-05546)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

The number of redundancies or job consultations that have been announced by oil and gas companies in Scotland has reached almost 10,000. The industry body Oil & Gas UK estimates that the total employment that is supported by the sector across the United Kingdom has fallen by approximately 65,000 jobs. We continue to monitor the impact that low oil prices are having on the oil and gas industry and its wider supply chain, and that will be discussed at the next energy jobs task force meeting, which will take place in March.

The task force has helped to support more than 2,500 individuals and 100 employers through the current downturn and will continue to support the industry to improve collaboration, co-operation and innovation. Last week, we announced a £12 million transition training fund that will augment the work of the task force and will offer grants to individuals to support their redeployment through retraining or further education.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

Has the minister read this week’s state of the industry report from the trade union offshore co-ordinating group? It notes that

“insufficient up-to-date economic and labour market data are available to paint an accurate picture of the impact the falling oil price has had on the Scottish economy”, and highlights recent increases in claimant count unemployment of as much as 80 per cent year on year in the north-east. Will he undertake at his hand to address that serious undercounting of the number of workers who have lost their jobs, in order to allow Government agencies to provide adequate support and trade unions to do their job and protect their members?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

On Monday, I discussed many of those issues with Grahame Smith. This morning, I wrote to the newly formed offshore co-ordinating group to seek a meeting to discuss the issues.

We entirely agree that the issues are extremely important, and we are determined to continue to do everything practical within our power to assist those individuals who need assistance. Some of them may not seek employment or may find employment by their own efforts, but those who need support will get it.

That is why the First Minister announced last Monday in Aberdeen the £12 million transition training fund; why I was in Aberdeen this Monday for discussions at three different meetings with Sir Ian Wood, with the industry leadership group and with senior representatives from the service companies; and why, incidentally, I was in Fort William yesterday discussing with the Underwater Centre—which I believe is the best-quality diving centre in the world—how the training fund can be best deployed. I think that Mr Macdonald and I have similar objectives, and I am happy to continue to work with him to achieve them.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Dennis Robertson may ask a very brief supplementary question.

Photo of Dennis Robertson Dennis Robertson Scottish National Party

What discussions is the Government having with the oil and gas sector and the wider supply chain to ensure that the appropriate skills will be retained in the event of the recovery, which I hope will be in the not-too-distant future?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You should be brief, please, minister.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Mr Robertson has identified an absolutely key point. If we lose skills, teams of experts in fields such as drilling and subsea exploration, and divers, when we emerge from the cycle—as most experts predict will happen, of course—we will not have the skills that we require to serve an industry that has an excellent future as well as a proud past of achievement. That is precisely why we have set up the £12 million transition training fund package. My job, working with my colleagues in the Scottish Government, Aberdeen City Council, Oil & Gas UK, Opportunity North East and the industry as a whole, is to ensure that that money is used to maximum effect and as quickly as possible to help the people whom Mr Robertson has identified as requiring support for the future of the industry.