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Editorial comment

Sublime mountains millions of years old, looming over lochs that enthral come rain or shine...Scotland’s natural landscapes certainly made the long, slow car journeys that were a feature of my recent holiday less of a hardship.

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Scotland is not just a getaway for those keen for a change of scenery after the restrictions on our freedom of movement this past year and a half of course. Come November, the eyes of the world will be on the city of Glasgow as it hosts the pivotal COP26 climate conference. It is likely by then that the country’s government will include the Scottish Green Party, following a power-sharing agreement made with the Scottish National Party in August.

The Greens’ power will be limited: pending approval of the agreement by party members, they will have only two ministerial positions in government. Moreover, it is ultimately the UK government in Westminster, rather than the Scottish government, that decides upon the granting of new offshore licences in the North Sea. However, by agreeing to this arrangement the Greens’ leadership must surely believe that they can exert a degree of influence over the course of Scotland’s energy policy.

It is now taken as a given that the transferable skills of North Sea workers will see them redeployed on low-carbon energy projects, such as hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS). Readers of Issue 2 of Oilfield Technology will recall an article by KPMG that analysed the results of the latest Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce Oil and Gas survey. One takeaway was that a considerable majority of Scottish energy firms surveyed (75%) are aiming to move into renewable projects in the next 3 - 5 years. So, there is clearly a desire to embrace a more diverse and increasingly carbon-free energy portfolio.

For example, the Scottish Cluster group, made up of Scottish industrial CO2 emitters and the Acorn CCS and Hydrogen Project partners, estimates that its work could support an average of 15 100 jobs between 2022 - 2050.1 While these numbers are significant, they should be put in the context of a recent report published by Oil & Gas UK that concluded that the various effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry (low oil prices, delayed/cancelled projects and diminished investment) led to 34 700 fewer direct or indirect jobs compared to 2019.As of now, Scotland’s emerging, unproven green energy industries – exciting as they may be – are not big enough to offset the recent job losses.

The Scottish Greens must therefore be clear-eyed about the consequences of any policies that they may propose, such as an imminent end to oil and gas extraction from the North Sea. As the saying goes, to govern is to choose and there are no shortage of difficult decisions ahead to be made. But to be just and effective, the energy transition has to be just that, a transition, rather than a full stop for Scotland’s remaining oil and gas workers.


    1. The Acorn Project, ‘Scottish Cluster expected to deliver 20,600 jobs in the next decade’, (21 July 2021).

    2. Oil & Gas UK, ‘Workforce & Employment Insight 2021’, (12 August 2021).