An industry chief has joined calls for long-term support from the UK Government for the oil and gas sector.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a range of measures as part of his summer statement – including the furlough bonus, where employers will receive £1,000 for each employee who returns to work from the coronavirus job retention scheme.
But concerns have been raised over the lack of a specific deal for the sector – with experts saying up to 30,000 jobs could go by next October as a result of the ongoing crisis.
Oil and Gas UK chief executive Deirdre Michie said: “The Chancellor’s announcement provides welcome support for companies in the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry affected by the immediate impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The continued volatility facing our sector, however, underlines the need for long-term and targeted support.
“In devastating circumstances the UK now faces a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to realise an energy transition which delivers affordable energy, supports jobs and enables our industry to put our skills to work to help cut emissions.
“Industry’s Roadmap 2035 offers a sensible blueprint which keeps net zero firmly on the agenda while also supporting energy communities to embrace new opportunities including carbon capture and hydrogen.
“The funding for Direct Air Capture of CO2 is a welcome step in the right direction as part of the wider development and roll-out of carbon capture and storage, and we look forward to continuing our work with government to realise the full potential of our sector in delivering the UK’s energy future.”
North-east MPs also criticised the Chancellor for failing to provide direct support for the sector.
And Gordon MP Richard Thomson said the Government had missed an opportunity to kick-start the “green revolution”.
He said: “This was a chance to change our priorities and a great opportunity to industrialise the green revolution – but there has been nothing said about it.
“It’s not just about creating jobs, it’s about protecting the thousands of jobs we know will be at risk.
“The north-east has not been well-served, and this represents a real failure to get to grips with the nature of where we are presently.
“The UK Treasury has done exceptionally well out of the north-east over the last four decades, but this is a time where we need something back from the Chancellor.
“The Scottish Government has committed to a £62 million investment in energy transition, using its limited powers to move it forward.
“By comparison, the UK Government’s approach seems to be all gong and no dinner.”
Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn said the move would put jobs at risk and posed a threat to the north-east economy.
He said: “The SNP has been consistently clear that the Treasury must bring forward real, tangible and directed support – including investment towards the creation of a just transition fund and in areas such as renewable energy, and carbon capture utilisation and storage.
“After providing almost £350 billion to the Treasury coffers over the years, the Chancellor had an opportunity to deliver desperately needed support for the sector.
“Instead, the Tory government once again turned its back on the oil and gas industry in its time of need.”
Mr Sunak said previous measures put in place to help the oil and gas sector were being reviewed, and more would be added if necessary.
He said: “Scotland has benefitted extraordinarily from the interventions this government has put in place during this crisis.
“I’m happy to acknowledge the difficulties in that sector and I know the business secretary is in talks with the sector.
“Mechanisms have been put in place before. We keep all of these things under review, and if we need to make more interventions in the future of course we will.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Bowie, Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, said: “The UK’s furlough scheme has saved an estimated 60,000 jobs in the north-east alone.
“Any suggestion that this unprecedented government intervention hasn’t helped protect our oil and gas industry is purely political.
“My Scottish colleagues and I have been pushing for a sector deal and at this moment, the industry is dealing with Ministers on its terms.
“The Treasury knows how important it is.
“Mr Flynn’s input has been less than zero.
“The Chancellor was absolutely right that nothing will ever be enough for some critics.”