It seems that the Scottish Tories take the north-east electorate for fools when it comes to the energy sector. They’re much less interested in oil and gas and much more interested in gaslighting the whole of the north-east.
Day after day, arch British nationalist voices such as Liam Kerr and Douglas Lumsden attempt to paint themselves as the oil and gas worker’s friend while portraying the Scottish Government as industry killers.
This has been going on for a while now. But these people aren’t the sort to let a good crisis go to waste. The Tories have possibly the most cynical approach to the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis. We are now met with claims the North Sea oil and gas is the answer to all our problems. We need only ramp up production, and we will be awash with cheap energy.
Of course, anyone who knows anything about energy knows this is just a fantasy. It does not bear even the slightest scrutiny; let’s look at the reality. First, even if the North Sea sector had unlimited oil reserves, it takes 10 years to get from the start of a project to actually get any oil or gas to market. This expanded exploration would take a decade to make any difference.
The way the UK manages the oil and gas industry means that any new oil or gas will be sold on the international market. So we will still be at the mercy of world events such as the current crisis. Currently, 80% of the oil produced in Scottish waters is exported. In fact, much of it goes straight from the floating production storage and offloading vessel (FPSO) to Rotterdam via tanker.
The North Sea is a very mature basin – which means it is nearing the end of its productive life; all the significant finds have already been found. The easy to extract has already been extracted. What’s left is marginal, hard to reach, micro discoveries and mainly lower-quality heavy oil. We will likely be pulling oil and gas out of the North Sea for decades to come, but it’s fair to say the glory days are well and truly in the past.
The last five years of oil and gas exploration in the North Sea has been a story of dry well after dry well. We haven’t had financially-viable oil or gas and wells. We’ve had reserve downgrades, a few tieback projects and FPSO projects, which produce very few jobs.
As recently as 2014, it was estimated that the oil and gas sector employed in the region of 220,000 people. Then, there were the horrendous 120,000 job losses – a large portion of which were in the north-east. Now oil and gas employs between 70,000 to 100,000 people. Those who have kept their jobs have often seen massive pay and condition cuts. The only growth in the industry has been in decommissioning. That’s right, the main growth is in shutting down of oil and gas production.
While 120,000 people lost their jobs, Aberdeen and surrounding areas saw a huge decline, affecting the whole local economy. Businesses across the north-east have closed.
While the north-east economy went down the toilet, the Tories did nothing for over a year before bailing out the oil companies with tax cuts that meant we were actually paying oil companies to extract our oil. The only people helped by this were the shareholders in the city of London. The job cuts, the cuts to working conditions, and wage slashing continued unabated. The job cuts, the shop closures and the business failures have kept on coming.
The UK Government bailing out the spivs while letting the workers and people suffer is nothing new. The north-east shouted loudly for help, but the Tories will always prioritise London over little old Aberdeen 500 miles away. Out of sight, out of mind. We were just another name on the long list of towns and cities whose primary industry had declined and been forgotten and left to decay.
Now the Scottish Tories think the people of the north-east are stupid enough to fall for their claim to the oil worker’s friend.
That somehow, the Tories care about the 70-100,000 jobs left in the sector, when they were totally indifferent about 120,000 jobs that have already been lost.
The north-east understands the oil and gas industry. Our area has been at the heart of it for over 50 years. Everyone knows a friend, a neighbour or a family member who has worked in the sector, the current Tory strategy is an insult, and it won’t wash.
We know oil and gas. We also know gaslighting. We won’t let the Tories confuse us.