22 January 2013

Oil & Gas Boom 2013

Forecasts that Scotland’s North Sea oil and gas industry will this year experience a "boom" in offshore jobs is being welcomed by people across Scotland.

Recruitment firm has predicted that up to 50,000 new jobs will be created in the sector, which is further evidence that Scotland stands to benefit from vast offshore resources for years to come.

This huge potential for job creation is good news for the oil and gas industry, and Scotland’s economy in general. This supports figures which have also emerged early in the new year that Scotland’s economic growth is outstripping that of the UK as a whole – further underlined Scotland’s potential to become wealthier as an independent country.

North Sea reserves of oil and gas are a tremendous asset which remain largely untapped and could be worth up to £1.5 trillion, which will help an independent Scotland to prosper and become a wealthier and fairer nation.

Sadly, thanks to successive Westminster Governments Scotland has not seen the benefit of these vast resources and we need the powers of independence to ensure that oil and gas resources work for the benefit of the people of Scotland.

The anti-independence parties have been scaremongering about oil and gas running out since the early years of production in the 1970s. However, recent investment has shown that the industry does not share Westminster’s pessimism, and some forecasts suggest that more than half of the revenues are still to come, demonstrating how Scotland stands to be wealthier as an independent country.

Indeed, in the very timely Scottish Government debate on oil and gas in the Scottish Parliament my colleagues and I highlighted the fact that Scotland’s potential to remain at the cutting edge of future fuel and energy technologies is not just based on our natural resources.

With a long tradition of innovation in off-shore technology and engineering, the North Sea is world renowned for having strict safety standards and high levels of expertise. Indeed, I was relieved to see both in action, as the non-essential crew were so quickly and efficiently evacuated from the Cormorant Alpha, and I will be monitoring this situation as it develops.

Moreover, provision is being made for the future with the creation of the national Energy Skills Academy, which encompasses colleges in the Banffshire & Buchan Coast constituency. The graduates of this industry-leading skills academy will be at the heart of the development of future technology such as carbon capture and storage – a pioneering example of which is based at Peterhead Power Station.

With our natural resources and skills pool, Scotland can map an energy and economic future not just for ourselves, but Europe and the world. A huge economic and environmental opportunity comes from the development of carbon capture and storage not simply for us, but as an exportable technology and a technology that we can use our engineers to support.

For example, in Poland, 90 per cent to 95 per cent of the electricity comes from coal or lignite, which is not just CO2 polluting but is hugely sulphurous. We could play a key role in helping countries such as Poland to address their issues. That is not simply a matter of economic imperative; it also has an environmental benefit.

After independence, there is no doubt that the Scottish Government will be just as motivated to continue development and support a long-term future for the energy industry, but, importantly, they would have the necessary levers of power to regulate the market and ensure competition and innovation.

This, combined with pioneering technologies as well as a booming renewables industry, spells huge economic benefits for communities in the North-east, Scotland and beyond.

Stewart Stevenson
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