Economic Forum

Scots ministers face scrutiny by oil and gas lobby

Sturgeon at National Economic Forum
Engaging: Nicola Sturgeon (pic: Terry Murden)

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Economy Secretary Kate Forbes will put energy transition at the centre of today’s National Economic Forum which will be scrutinised for any shifts in favour of continued investment in North Sea oil and gas.

The forum enables ministers to engage with business leaders and economists on formulating the Scottish Government’s economic policy and comes amid growing tensions between the climate change lobby and the fossil fuel industry.

The war in Ukraine has focused attention on the UK’s need for greater security of supply and a major report published yesterday by the industry group Offshore Energies UK called on all politicians to show greater commitment to the North Sea, or leave the UK vulnerable to more imports of oil and gas.

Ms Sturgeon has publicly said that new fields, such as Cambo west of Shetland, should not go ahead, but Shell is said to be dusting off its plans to invest in the project, having shelved its interest in the wake of the COP26 climate summit.

This year’s forum will attempt to put more flesh on the recently-published National Strategy for Economic Transformation which was criticised for being a wish list and rehash of old ideas, while supporters said it presented a basic framework to build the economy around new industries and invest more in re-skilling the workforce.

There was particular criticism that the strategy made no mention of oil and gas which had been a centrepiece of the SNP’s independence campaign. Today’s event will feature a contribution from Maggie McGinlay of the Energy Transition Zone.

Speaking ahead of the forum, Ms Forbes said: “Scotland’s new National Strategy for Economic Transformation is ambitious and refreshing. The strategy sets out our aim for Scotland to be a successful, thriving country that is always looking to deliver positive change, both in terms of economic performance and tackling inequalities.

“We want to be recognised as a nation of entrepreneurs and innovators, who embrace the opportunities of new technology, boost productivity and focus on the innovations that will make the biggest difference, not just here but internationally.

“We must work together, we will listen to and engage directly with industry experts to ensure that the voice of businesses is heard at the heart of the government, which will in turn help us transform our economy and deliver on our ambitions to not leave anyone behind.

“I, alongside the First Minister and other Ministers in the Scottish Government, look forward to this year’s National Economic Forum and to continuing to work in partnership with Scotland’s business community to unlock our economic potential.”

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