Oil and Gas Industry (Just Transition)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 9th September 2021.

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Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

6. To ask the First Minister what steps the Scottish Government is taking ahead of the 26th United Nations climate change conference of the parties—COP26—regarding the future of oil and gas exploration and securing a just transition for workers. (S6F-00228)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

While oil and gas and issues around the licensing and exploration of offshore oil and gas are reserved to the United Kingdom Government, we have called for the UK Government to significantly enhance the climate conditionality associated with offshore exploration and production and to reassess licences that have already been issued but where field development has not yet commenced.

The programme for government includes a commitment to develop an energy just transition plan. We have committed to working with communities and with those who are most impacted across Scotland, including our very highly skilled oil and gas workforce, to co-design that plan, and we have committed to take forward a 10-year £500 million just transition fund for the north-east and Moray.

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

The Scottish Government cannot make the same mistakes as the Tories and leave whole communities facing unemployment. An offshore training passport would allow oil and gas workers to move freely between the offshore and onshore energy sectors. The Government should really be supporting standardisation of skills across sectors. Will the First Minister commit today to developing an offshore training passport, as supported by Friends of the Earth and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers?

The First Minister:

Yes—I am very happy to consider all constructive discussions. I am happy to ask the minister to engage directly with the member. Those are exactly the kinds of constructive proposals that we need. Will every constructive proposal be able to be taken forward? No—that is rarely the case—but, because we are so serious about a just transition, we will engage properly on all those issues.

I suspect that I am a fair bit older than the member, but I have first-hand memories of the devastation in the community where I grew up from the mistakes that previous Governments made around deindustrialisation.

We must not repeat those mistakes in the process of decarbonisation, which is why the just transition process is so important. I thank Mercedes Villalba for that question, and I am happy to engage with her on the detail.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

Given that an Oil and Gas Authority report endorsed by Sir Ian Wood shows that the carbon footprint from imported gas is more than double that of domestically produced gas, does the First Minister agree that currently, while there remains a Scottish demand, the most environmentally friendly approach, and one which recognises the climate emergency, is to ensure that we support the Scottish oil and gas sector?

The First Minister:

Where I agree with Liam Kerr—I will try to find points of agreement here—is that we must make the transition not only in a way that is just for workers, which is fundamentally important, but in a way, and at a pace, that does not become counterproductive because it inadvertently increases reliance on imports. In principle, that point is important; I have made it many times myself. Underneath that, though, there is greater complexity. Right now, we export a significant proportion of what is produced in the North Sea, and we already import a lot of the oil and gas that is used, so there is often greater complexity lying beneath the headline claim.

We need to engage properly with these issues. We are in a transition, whether we like it or not, from fossil fuels to renewable and low-carbon sources of energy. We owe that to the planet, and none of us can—nor should we try to—escape that responsibility, but we need to do that in a way that is fair and just and which actually has the intended effects.

These things require a lot of careful consideration and a large amount of careful work, but we cannot escape our moral and economic responsibility to make the transition and to meet our net zero targets. The Government is incredibly serious about doing that, and about, on occasion—not just on this issue but, I am sure, on a whole range of other issues—facing up to the difficult challenges that it entails.

Photo of Karen Adam Karen Adam Scottish National Party

I recently met Equate Scotland and discussed the importance of putting an equalities lens on the just transition for workers. What steps is the Scottish Government taking to ensure that there is equity for women in the just transition for workers, in particular as they have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic?

The First Minister:

That is an excellent and extremely important point. In fact, it should run through all the work that we do as a Government.

The programme for government recognises the point that Karen Adam makes. The impacts of Covid have been, and will no doubt continue to be, experienced disproportionately by various groups, including women. I assure her that our engagement on the development of just transition plans will seek to amplify the voices of underrepresented groups, and to actively work to ensure that we create a better, greener future for all.

More generally, we have committed to take forward a programme of work to embed equality, inclusion and human rights throughout Scotland. That is an important part of our overall commitment to ensuring that while the transition happens, it happens in a way that is just and fair.