Oil and Gas Industry — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:30 am on 9 October 2018.

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Photo of John McNally John McNally Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment) 11:30, 9 October 2018

Once again, my hon. Friend makes a good point about the need for long-term certainty of investment and policy. The CCS decision was an example of a shambolic state of affairs, given that many hundreds of millions of pounds had been invested for the future. That future was basically taken away from under investors’ feet, so I absolutely agree with him.

The export-orientated supply chain generates about £30 billion annually across the UK, and its exported services deliver £12 billion, and the future blueprint for the sector, “Vision 2035”, grasps the importance of that. Alongside adding a generation of productive life to the basin, the blueprint has the objective of doubling the long-term opportunities for the supply chain. If we work together to maximise production from the UK continental shelf and to help the supply chain grow its share of the global energy market, we can boost that prize by half again and generate £920 billion of revenue for the UK economy through to 2035. That is a real game changer for us all. By doubling its share of the global market and embracing the opportunities available through diversification into other markets, the sector can achieve an additional £150 billion of revenue above the baseline estimate of £350 billion.

However, Grangemouth, its workforce and the wider sector are being put at risk by Brexit. The latest Oil & Gas UK report makes it clear that Brexit will have a significant impact on the oil and gas sector, warning about the impact on frictionless access to goods and services, and that the UK Government’s Brexit plans could cause a “skills shortage” for vital North sea services such as emergency response and rescue vehicles.

The Scottish National party is clear that the best way to achieve the goals I have mentioned is to protect Scotland’s place in the single market and the customs union. The Scottish Government have delivered an exceptional range of support for the oil and gas sector and its workforce, including an investment of £2.4 billion in enterprise and skills through our enterprise agencies and skills bodies, £90 million over the next decade to support the Oil & Gas Technology Centre as part of the Aberdeen city region deal, and a £12 million transition training fund to support individuals and help the sector to retain talent.

The other major risk that is looming also comes from Westminster, and that is the Budget on 29 October. With the Treasury having taken about £350 billion from the oil and gas sector in the past 50 years, this is an opportunity for the UK Government to repay their debts and show their support for the sector. The Chancellor must ensure in his autumn Budget that the UKCS is globally attractive for investment, with a competitive and predictable fiscal regime. The UK Government must not repeat the mistakes of previous Administrations and undermine the sector by using it as the Treasury’s cash cow. Instead, they must protect tax incentives designed to support the sector, introduce measures to improve exploration and attract fresh investment, complete the work on transferable tax history, urgently ensure that the tax treatment of late-life assets is addressed so that those assets are in the right hands, and support the urgently required alternative solution to end-use relief.

The SNP also demands that the UK Government use the autumn Budget to implement an oil and gas sector deal, instead of dragging their feet, as is currently the case in Ayrshire, Tayside and Inverness. A sector deal should support practical steps to protect, progress and promote operators, the supply chain and the offshore and onshore workforce. A sector deal for the industry must include visionary national hubs for underwater innovation, transformational technology and decommissioning, based in Aberdeen but serving the whole industry.

In conclusion, North sea oil and gas is booming and the sector is working hard alongside its downstream and supply chain partners to secure a bright, lower-carbon future. The sector has a clear route map in “Vision 2035” and is ably supported by the Scottish Government, who are using their limited powers to the full. The UK Government must now make two choices: to protect the supply chains and the labour supply through single market and customs union membership, and to provide the long-term political certainty and financial support that the sector needs.