Oil Industry 'A Priority' For SNP

18 January 2015, 06:00

Pressing for action to support the stricken North Sea oil and gas sector will be a priority for SNP MPs elected in May, the party has said.

The focus on protecting the industry comes after BP announced hundreds of jobs are to be lost following the plunge in oil prices.

Nicola Sturgeon launched a taskforce to help save jobs and has called on the UK Government to bring forward immediate tax changes to mitigate the price drop.

The First Minister wants an investment allowance for companies developing challenging oil fields, a phased reversal of the supplementary charge levied on oil companies and the creation of an exploration tax credit.

Such measures could help support tens of thousands of jobs, Ms Sturgeon said.

The SNP, which has seen its membership soar since the independence referendum, hopes to substantially increase the number of MPs it returns to Westminster at the general election.

SNP Westminster energy spokesman Mike Weir said the MPs would not allow the sector to be put on the "back burner''.

"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,'' he said.

"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 its funding for the Oil and Gas Innovation Centre.

"But 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.

"That is why it is vital that a strong team of SNP MPs with real clout is elected at the general election.''

The SNP's opponents in Scotland have accused the Scottish Government of being slow to respond to the emerging crisis in the North Sea and have called on Ms Sturgeon to use the powers already at her disposal to protect jobs.