Neil Gray: we can’t shut down the oil and gas sector overnight (pic: Terry Murden)
Economy Secretary Neil Gray today gave a qualified commitment to supporting oil and gas production “for some time” as the industry transitioned to cleaner energies.
In comments likely to jar with the Scottish Government’s Green party partners, Mr Gray said a balance had to be struck.
“Until we can phase it out there will be an element of reliance on natural gas. It is not about shutting down the oil and gas industry overnight,” he told Daily Business.
“A just transition is needed, but oil and gas has to be supported,” he said.
Earlier this week Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce said First Minister Humza Yousaf had indicated that he has a “pragmatic” view on oil and gas.
Mr Gray was asked if he subscribed to the Sturgeon government’s “presumption against new exploration for oil and gas”. He said: “It is open for consultation. We have to understand that the oil and gas sector has contributed a huge amount to our economy. It will have to continue for some time.” He did not give any timescale.
He said he had spoken to trade body Offshore Energies UK on Tuesday “about making sure we get the balance right”.
He said: “I don’t think there is as much dis-alignment as people would have us believe.”
Mr Gray was speaking during a visit to the National Robotarium at Heriot-Watt University which he described as part of the “wellbeing” economy.
“We will be saying more about the wellbeing economy when parliament returns, but it is about making the economy work for the people and the planet rather than the other way around,” he said.
Asked about the long-delayed appointment of a chair for Scottish Enterprise, he said: “I am hopeful we will appoint someone as quickly as possible.”
He said he did not know if there was anyone in the frame for the post which has been vacant since Lord Smith ended his tenure last summer, or how long the process would take.
He rejected criticism of Mr Yousaf’s decision to split the economy and finance portfolios which some believe will create unnecessary tensions over funding and strategy.
“We are all working together on common goals,” he said.
On former Finance Secretary and party leadership candidate Kate Forbes, who rejected an offer to become Rural Affairs Secretary, he said there was “no personal animosity” between her and the First Minister.
“He wanted Kate to be in the government and in the Cabinet so the door is open to Kate further down the line,” he said.