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Union calls for more commitment

Decommissioning fund just ‘a drop in the ocean’

Unite, the trade union, has described the £5 million government fund for decommissioning work in the North Sea as a “drop in the ocean”.

It wants a new focus on oil and gas exploration in the seas around Scotland – supported by new government investment.

The union’s call follows the latest plans by Shell to remove facilities in the Brent field, which prompted the government to announce a fund to support decommissioning projects.

But Scotland’s largest offshore union says that government and industry must ‘keep their eyes on the prize’ and start planning for new investment in exploration and extraction.

Unite spokesman Gary Smith said the £5m was a “drop in the ocean” and that the government needed to start investing in the industry at an early stage.

The union’s Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “In the last year, there has been a growing focus on decommissioning in the offshore sector. Some people might be forgiven for having the impression that the days of new exploration and extraction are coming to an end. Unite is clear – that is simply not the case.

“We need a decommissioning strategy, and we need to ensure that any work supports jobs in Scotland and doesn’t go overseas. But while planning for future decommissioning, we should not take our eyes off the prize. Our focus must remain on extracting maximum economic benefit from the estimated 22 billion barrels of oil and gas still in the UK Continental Shelf.

“We again call on the Scottish and UK governments to use their borrowing powers to take out public stakes in new offshore infrastructure. That would encourage companies to also invest, would support jobs, and would create returns for the public purse as the oil and gas begins to flow.”

On 23 February a cross-party motion supporting Unite’s call for public investment in new oil and gas exploration will be debated in the Scottish Parliament. The motion was lodged by Lewis Macdonald MSP and has already secured cross-party support.

Mr Rafferty said: “Our members will be watching that debate with interest. We look forward to hearing what the Scottish Government has to say.”

SNP MSP for Aberdeenshire East, Gillian Martin said the Decommissioning Challenge Fund “will provide an economic boost to the North-East of Scotland”.

The fund will support infrastructure upgrades and innovation in salvage and transport methods at Scotland’s ports and harbours.

Ms Martin said that this support adds to existing Scottish Government commitments in the North-East, including £125 million funding for the city region deal, £254 million to improve rail links to the central belt, and improvements to the regions road and rail infrastructure.

She said: “These Scottish Government efforts to prepare the energy sector for the longer terms is yet further evidence of the support that the SNP continue to provide to communities across the North-East.

“Decommissioning is an important future step for our North Sea industries, and it is quite right for the Scottish Government to look to invest in the long-term future of the North-East.

“There is little doubt that there is still much potential for extracting oil and gas from the North Sea, and the Scottish Government is active in ensuring that this has a viable future, in spite of a lacklustre Westminster government.”

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