Swinney: Oil & Gas Industry At Risk In Budget

16 March 2016, 05:34 | Updated: 16 March 2016, 08:39

The future prosperity of the oil and gas industry could be at risk if George Osborne fails to act on the challenges the sector is facing, Scotland's Deputy First Minister has warned.

John Swinney claimed "indecision and inconsistency'' from Westminster over energy policy has put investment and jobs at risk.

He has already written to the Chancellor urging him to use his Budget to help the industry, which has been hit hard by plunging oil prices.

The Scottish Government wants the tax burden on the North sea to be reduced, and is calling for more to be done to encourage further exploration.

Ministers in Edinburgh also want to see improved access to decommissioning tax relief, as well as other forms of support for the sector, such as government loan guarantees.

Mr Swinney said oil and gas is one of Scotland's "main industrial and economic success stories'' but added that the sector and its workforce "are currently facing a range of challenges''.

He stated: "Indecision and inconsistency in energy policy from Westminster has placed Scottish investment and jobs at risk.

"Today I repeat my calls for immediate action from the Chancellor in his March Budget to ensure the significant potential of the North Sea is realised. The Scottish Government has been engaging with the industry, unions, and the Oil and Gas Authority to address the challenges facing the Oil and Gas sector. There is consensus across stakeholders that the loss of highly skilled workers and critical infrastructure could be realised if urgent action is not taken.

"UK Government inaction at this time could threaten the prosperity of the oil and gas industry. I look forward to the steps I hope the Chancellor will take to support the oil and gas industry in the Budget.''

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale is also looking for the action from the Chancellor to help the North Sea, arguing that Mr Osborne "needs to invest in the future of our economy, and he has to start by getting a grip of the crisis in the North Sea''.

Ms Dugdale stated: "Thousands of jobs have already been lost, with a devastating effect on the Scottish economy. Tax relief has been welcome in the past, but it can't solve the problem of under investment. That's why Labour has called for a new UK oil agency to invest in infrastructure and prevent assets such as platforms and pipelines being decommissioned earlier than planned.''

She also called on the Conservative Chancellor to "stop his race to cut to the bone'', warning his economic policies put the UK's recovery at risk by asking "those with least to pay the most''.

The Labour leader said: "This has been the slowest economic recovery in over a hundred years, with ordinary family incomes squeezed and the most vulnerable in our society hit the hardest. We can't go on with more of the same policies.''

Meanwhile Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie warned the Chancellor against making more cuts to the renewable energy sector.

He said: "Green cuts might go down well amongst Tory backwoodsmen but further moves to slash support for the sector would be little more than environmental and economic vandalism.

"Scotland has huge potential for renewables but companies looking at wave energy and other renewable sources are at a critical stage in their development. Further cuts could set the sector back by a decade or more and see us lose ground against our international competitors.

"If we want to build a country that is fit for the future then we need to invest in clean, sustainable energy. That is the challenge that the Chancellor needs to meet in his budget tomorrow.''