Oil and gas need the right support

07 May 2011..Dennis Robertson MSP Aberdeenshire West / Scottish National Party pictured in the garden lobby during the MSP registration session. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
07 May 2011..Dennis Robertson MSP Aberdeenshire West / Scottish National Party pictured in the garden lobby during the MSP registration session. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

I would like to take this opportunity to pass on my heartfelt condolences to the family of Christopher Hutchon, of the Ballater area, who lost his life on Sunday after being hit by a car.

The weather has been particularly harsh this past week and we must all take as much care as possible on the roads.

I would also like to pass on my thanks to the emergency services in the constituency who maintain the highest standard of care.

I understand that the retained fire service were first on the scene, and I am sure that their efforts are hugely appreciated by constituents throughout Aberdeenshire West.

In response to the current situation in the North Sea, the First Minster announced last week that a new Energy Jobs Taskforce will be established to support Scotland’s oil and gas sector.

The new Taskforce, chaired by Scottish Enterprise Chief Executive Lena Wilson, will report to the Scottish Energy Advisory Board and will focus on supporting jobs across the energy sector, but with an initial emphasis on the oil and gas sector.

The First Minister also announced a guarantee for Modern Apprentices (MAs) in Scotland’s oil and gas sector to ensure that any one faced with redundancy will be offered alternative employment or continued off-the-job training pending alternative employment.

Low oil prices are something that the oil and gas industry has experienced before, but there is no doubt that it represents a challenge to the sector.

If jobs are to be protected, then the industry needs the right support.

The Scottish Government is playing its part in supporting the oil and gas sector, with initiatives such as the Energy Jobs Taskforce and the apprenticeship guarantees announced last week, and funding for the Oil and Gas Innovation Centre.

However, it is long past time that Westminster moved to do its bit, and take the kind of action needed to support the oil and gas sector.

We want responsibility for the sector to be transferred to the Scottish Parliament in the future, but right now Westminster is responsible, and the measures being called for by the Scottish Government need to be delivered now.

SNP MPs will make support for the sector and the jobs it supports a key priority, so that for as long as Westminster remains in charge, the Treasury cannot be allowed to go back to treating this vital Scottish industry as a cash cow.

Successive Westminster governments have been quick to squeeze the industry at any opportunity, but when support is needed they are far slower off the mark.

It also beggars belief that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury continues to say that they will take no immediate fiscal action.

The fact is, with Boards taking crucial North Sea investment decisions now, we cannot wait another two months until the Budget for urgent changes to the fiscal regime.

The Scottish Government has done everything it can with the powers it has to support the industry.

I will be meeting with Oil and Gas UK later this month with other SNP MSPs and MPs to discuss the situation within the North Sea industry and to discuss what more we can do to help.

It is now some four years since the conclusion of the Chilcot Inquiry, announced in June 2009 - covering the run-up to the Iraq War, the military action itself, and its aftermath - and concluded its hearings in February 2011.

Tony Blair’s Labour Government dragged us in to the Iraq War on the basis of a false prospectus about weapons of mass destruction.

This war was responsible for the deaths of 179 UK service personnel, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

The war also fundamentally undermined trust in the UK system of government, and publication of Chilcot in the earliest possible course is surely essential in order that lessons can be learned and applied, and responsibility allocated.

It is unacceptable that years have passed, and the public still await publication of this report into the UK’s worst foreign policy disaster of modern times.

I will be holding surgeries throughout the constituency over the coming weeks; please contact my constituency office on 01467 631364 if you would like to meet with me to discuss any matter.