3. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that opportunities for retraining in green skills are available to workers currently employed in the oil and gas sector, to enable them to assist in reducing Scotland’s carbon emissions. (S6O-00584)
The Scottish Government published the climate emergency skills action plan in December 2020, identifying the immediate and long-term actions needed to ensure that our workforce has the skills required to support Scotland’s transition to net zero.
As a priority action, and within the first 100 days of the parliamentary session—in August 2021—we launched the green jobs workforce academy, providing individuals of all ages with advice, support and training opportunities to help them to enter into, or progress in, good green jobs. Through the academy, we are committed to supporting workers in energy transition, including in oil and gas, onshore and offshore wind, hydrogen, electricity, and carbon capture and storage. That includes the delivery of a skills guarantee for workers in carbon-intensive sectors such as oil and gas that will be designed with stakeholders as part of our initial response to the just transition commission.
In the Highlands and Islands, we have the highest level of fuel poverty. Added to that, very few companies retrofit, because microbusinesses do not have the resources to register for approved status, which would enable them to carry out work that is grant funded. What is the cabinet secretary doing to attract oil and gas workers to retrain in the area and to enable them and other local contractors to register as approved contractors, in order to ensure a supply of local contractors who are available to retrofit in the areas in which they are most needed?
I thank Rhoda Grant for those very important points, with which I certainly identify in my own constituency of Moray, in the north of Scotland. That is one of the reasons why we set up the green jobs workforce academy. I am told that nearly 3,400 people—unique users—have already visited that website in the first couple of months since it was set up. That resource is available for anyone who works in the oil and gas sector, in addition to the official initiatives, many of which are in the north-east of Scotland, for finding out about the opportunities in renewables and how to retrain and get accredited for some of those sectors that are important for the transition, as Rhoda Grant has mentioned.
However, I absolutely accept that there is a long way to go. That is why we are working with our colleges and our further education sector. The minister for green skills, Lorna Slater, is also working hard on those issues.
The United Kingdom’s £16 billion North Sea transition deal, which launched last March, aims to transition 40,000 oil and gas jobs in the next eight years. The Scottish Government has allocated just £20 million to a just transition fund. What precisely is the £20 million for, and what are the stated year 1 outcomes?
I say to Liam Kerr that I am delighted that the UK Government is investing resources into the North Sea after taking out more than £300 billion over the past few decades. It is good to get something back for the north-east of Scotland. It is an important initiative.
When it comes to the Scottish Government’s transition fund for north-east Scotland over the next 10 years, we are working hard with stakeholders and will make further announcements in the new year on the first £20 million of that fund, which is in the draft budget that is before the Parliament just now.
Energy policy remains reserved to UK ministers. Will the minister advise on the opportunities for green skills and green jobs that have been lost through terrible decision making by UK ministers? While they have invested billions in expensive nuclear power, they have underinvested in what the tidal industry needs, they have shamefully chosen not to award track 1 status to the Scottish Cluster carbon capture project and they have cut subsidies for renewables.
Neil Gray has highlighted the massive potential for creating hundreds of thousands of green jobs in Scotland. The recent decision by the UK Government not to place the Acorn carbon capture project in track 1 is, of course, a blow to the creation of those green jobs. More than 15,000 jobs are expected in the early stages of that project alone, and it is really important that the UK Government reverse that decision. There is massive potential. I do not have time to quote the many different reports that outline the potential for hundreds of thousands of new green jobs in Scotland.