The Scottish Government is committed to making innovation, design and manufacture an intrinsic part of our culture, economy and society.
The National Decommissioning Centre is a clear example of that commitment. It was opened in January in Newburgh in my constituency, and it is a centre of excellence in the north-east of Scotland, which will develop new capabilities, skills and jobs to meet the decommissioning challenge now and in the years ahead.
The NDC is a £38 million partnership between the Oil & Gas Technology Centre and the University of Aberdeen, and is funded as part of the Aberdeen city region deal. Over the next decade, 100 offshore platforms and 5,700km of pipeline are forecast to be decommissioned or reused. That will involve safety, efficiency and environmental challenges, which are being actively tackled by the NDC. By combining industry expertise with academic excellence, the NDC is leading the world in research and development in relation to decommissioning challenges in the oil and gas industry and in the wider energy sector, such as offshore renewables. That work will have a legacy beyond our use of hydrocarbons as we transition to a low-carbon economy. There is a model there for an energy transition innovation centre that would similarly harness our local engineering expertise and couple it with the expertise in our academic institutions—assuming that universities will have a replacement for the funding that they will lose as we exit the EU.
The programme for government rightly sets its innovation ambition in the direction of low-carbon technology, and I was particularly pleased to see the announcement that the Scottish national investment bank will have that ambition as its focus. This week is Scotland’s climate week, and the world-leading emissions targets in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill, which we passed the other week, present Scotland with an opportunity to be at the forefront of global action, gaining a foothold in the development of low-emissions solutions products and processes that we can export all over the world. I wish that I could say that, to date, enough action has been taken for us to have that foothold, but we have much more to do, and, if we are to harness that opportunity, we need to act much more quickly than we have done so far. My region is still too reliant on oil and gas, and I know that workers in the north-east actively want to be channelling their expertise into future energy, rather than being beholden to the swings and roundabouts of a global oil price and being left behind as other countries steal a march on us as the transition happens. In particular, I know that young people want to work in low-emission energy systems instead of being reliant on hydrocarbon jobs, as their parents are.
The UK Government’s pulling of the funding for carbon capture and storage projects has set us back years in that regard. Responsibility for the issue lies not only at the feet of the Scottish Government; the UK Government is involved, too, as it has failed to recognise the challenge that is ahead of us as we decarbonise.
I have made my pitch. The Oil & Gas Technology Centre and the National Decommissioning Centre are excellent and groundbreaking, and we can learn a lot from them, but the low carbon energy transition process needs that model too, and that new focus should have its heart in the energy capital of Scotland—the north-east of Scotland—soon.