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‘No plan’: Union launches ‘rebellious’ campaign against Labour over Scots oil jobs



The ‘No ban without a plan’ campaign which will cost more than £100,000 will focus on the areas of Aberdeenshire North and Moray, Aberdeen North, Alloa and Grangemouth, Bathgate and Linlithgow, Falkirk and Orkney and Shetland and warns Labour not to “push North Sea workers off a cliff edge”.

The campaign involves the erection of billboards, paid advertising displays, and canvassing residents.

It has been described as a “grass roots mobilisation of Unite members organised in the constituencies delivering leaflets and organising events, and lobbies to raise the debate”.

The union said that the ban was “premature and irresponsible” and could lead to us importing more oil and gas from other countries at a time when we have it on our doorstep.

They have also lodged concern that Labour, Britain’s main opposition party and favourites to win the next General Election, has no plan on wind power manufacture in Scotland and the UK or over the transition to ‘green’ jobs for North Sea workers.

The Herald:

It comes after the Herald revealed that the nation’s oil and gas industry is estimated to have lost tens of thousands of jobs more jobs than has been gained from renewables in the green revolution over a decade leading to grave disquiet over how the nation’s energy economy is being handled.

The oil and gas industry in Scotland has shed nearly 40% of its jobs amounting to 50,000 in Scotland over a decade, according to industry figures – while the number gained from low carbon enterprises has risen by just 2,500.

The Scottish oil and gas jobs loss has come despite the UK Government pressing ahead with new licensing for fossil fuels projects.

Unions are concerned that government is mismanaging Scotland’s energy sector and that there is “no credible plan” for the future while the green jobs revolution is being described as “remaining a myth”.

Data gathered by the trade association, Offshore Energies UK working with the multinational data analytics and consumer credit analysis Experian found that the number of jobs directly and indirectly employed in oil and gas in Scotland have crashed by nearly 40% since 2013 from 117,900 to just 74,100 in 2022.

During the period, the UK Government has issued roughly 400 new drilling licences in five separate licensing rounds.

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According to official estimates, the numbers employed in Scotland in the low carbon and renewable energy economy employment has only risen from 23,200 in 2014 to 25,700 in 2022. It was previously revealed that jobs in the low carbon and renewable energy sector (LCRE) on Scotland had dropped by 13% in the year from 29,700 – while turnover has soared by 47% from £8.853bn to £12.992bn.

Sharon Graham, the general secretary of Unite, which pays significant affiliation fees to Labour, amounting to almost £1.1m up to September, last year said: “Labour needs to pull back from this irresponsible policy. There is clearly no viable plan for the replacement of North Sea jobs or energy security.

The Herald: Sharon Graham

“We should not be letting go of one rope until we have hold of another. These types of transitions must have workers at the heart. Unite will not stand by and let these workers be thrown on the scrap heap. North Sea workers cannot be sacrificed on the altar of net zero.”

The union say that 35,000 new energy transition jobs should be created by the end of this decade and that Labour should “do the right thing by North Sea workers”.

Unite gave Labour £3.5m in the run-up to the 2019 general election, making it by far the biggest contributor to the party’s campaign.

One Scottish Labour activist told the Herald that the campaign was “a kind of rebellion” and hoped that there would be moves to “smooth over things” with Unite.

Labour previously  confirmed it would “not grant licences to explore new fields” in the North Sea. But the party insisted it would honour any licences in existence at the time of the next election, which must be held by January 2025. That is likely to include the controversial new Rosebank development west of Shetland.

Over ten years ago the Scottish Government were championing the desire to be the green energy capital of Europe with around 28,000 jobs in offshore wind alone by 2020.

The Scottish Government’s own just transition plan alongside sets out how thousands of oil and gas workers will be moved into other energy industries as the North Sea sector declines.

Under the plans, the Scottish Government said that the number of green jobs will be increased to 77,000 by 2050. Ministers said there would be a “ramping up of jobs” before 2030 and expects a “further acceleration” after 2030.

The OEUK’s estimates based on government data and industry modelling show that in 2013 the 117,900 employed by oil and gas in Scotland included 27,500 that were directly employed and 90,400 that were indirectly employed in a support capacity in the wider supply chain and whose work is calculated into a business’s costs. That fell to 74,100 in 2022 including 31,000 directly employed and 43,000 indirectly.

There was a further 61% fall in the estimated number of induced jobs in Scotland that are only viable in the wider economy because the oil and gas industry is active in the local economy, like restaurants and grocery stores. The fall is from 50,600 in 2013 to 19,500 in 2022.

It comes as the nation’s only oil refinery at Grangemouth which is set for closure next year putting thousands of jobs at risk, was expected to get a stay of execution – after a key reason for its demise  was quietly brought back into action after a multi-million pound investment.

The Herald: GRANGEMOUTH, SCOTLAND - MARCH 29:  An illuminated Grangemouth Oil Refinery emits smoke on March 29, 2012 in Grangemouth, Scotland. Government ministers appear to have caused sporadic panic buying of fuel after suggesting that motorists should store petrol

In November bosses at the Petroineos plant in Grangemouth told staff that Scotland “simply won’t be big enough to support a fuels refinery” and set a timeline for its closure next year.

Refinery owner Petroineos – the joint venture between Ineos Group – the petrochemicals giant controlled by Sir Jim Ratcliffe – and China’s state-backed PetroChina – which bought the refinery in 2005, said it will remain a refinery until spring 2025 and that jobs would remain safe in the short term.

The Grangemouth plant was established almost a century ago and became symbolic of Scotland’s ‘black gold’, used by the Scottish National Party during the 1970s in making their economic case for independence from the rest of the UK.

The vital Grangemouth hydrocracker unit, which produces jet fuel, diesel and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) went offline in April, last year and has not operated since. It is seen as a key reason why the the refinery was heading towards imminent closure.

But the Herald revealed that the profitable unit has been started up again with insiders saying it was expected to have cost around £30m to fix.

The development has led to calls to lift the immediate threat of closure.

Insiders told the Herald that the business is taking a “watch-and-see” approach and that mid-2025 is now seen as the earliest that the plant will halt production as an oil refinery. It is expected this will mean that an end point will be nearer to 2027 when new investment is needed on the hydrocracker.

Twelve years ago, the potential wind and marine energy power in the Pentland Firth – where the north-east Atlantic meets the North Sea – led the then First Minister Alex Salmond to dub it the “Saudi Arabia of Renewables” with Scottish firm BiFab at the time making turbines for offshore wind farms.

Video: Then First Minister Alex Salmond in 2011 compared the development of a new green energy revolution in Scotland to how the nation “started the design” of North Sea oil and gas platforms. 

In November, 2010, Mr Salmond, first announced a £70m investment fund to finance the offshore wind sector.

He said by 2020, 28,000 jobs could be created directly servicing domestic and worldwide offshore wind markets and add £7.1 billion in value to Scotland’s economy.

Opening the Scottish Low Carbon Investment conference in Edinburgh, he urged private finance leaders to seize the multi-billion pound opportunities arising from the renewable and low carbon technology revolution.

But Scottish jobs in offshore wind alone, according to Office for National Statistics estimates, fell from 3200 in 2021 to 3100 in 2022 – as concerns grew about the scandal of cheap foreign labour replacing British workers to serve Scotland’s green revolution.

Scottish Renewables which has previously queried ONS data, has approached the official statistics authority about the modelling it uses to gather data on the renewable energy industry.

A UK poll of polls analysis on voting intention from May 13 shows that Labour are currently leading with 44%, followed by the Conservatives on 24%, Reform UK, formerly the Brexit Party on 11%, the Liberal Democrats on 10%, the Greens on 6% and the SNP on 3%.

The Scottish Labour Party was approached for comment.

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