Scotland politics

Scottish Greens call for fossil fuels re-think

North Sea oil platform
Image caption The price of a barrel of oil has been falling globally, hitting the industry in the North Sea

Scotland should move away from its "over-reliance" on fossil fuels and develop a renewables future, the Scottish Green Party has argued.

Its two MSPs, Patrick Harvie and Alison Johnstone, believed a "managed decline" in North Sea oil and gas could be an opportunity to create jobs.

Their debate at Holyrood came as global oil prices continue to fall.

The Scottish government has already put on record that it supports a move to a low carbon economy.

However, other MSPs voiced continuing support for the oil and gas industry, with energy minister Fergus Ewing saying the government would do everything possible to support jobs.

Mr Harvie denied he was trivialising job losses in the industry, hitting out at "absurd misquotes".

He said: "Even those of us who have long argued that we are over-reliant on the fossil fuel industries would never argue that the impact of job losses on this scale is something trivial."

'Final warning'

The Scottish Greens commissioned research last year which concluded that a transition from fossil fuels to cleaner alternatives could create 200,000 new jobs.

Speaking before the debate on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Harvie said: "The devastating job losses in the North Sea should have been the final warning for the Scottish government and Scotland's parties to start drawing up plans on how to move away from our over-reliance on fossil fuels.

"Yet, it still looks like no other party but the Scottish Greens is willing to face the facts and start looking ahead.

"Scotland's trade unions and even the Bank of England have recognised it - building our future on oil and gas is simply not an option. The fossil fuel industry will decline, whether we like it or not."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Patrick Harvie: "The devastating job losses in the North Sea should have been the final warning for the Scottish government"

He argued that Scotland should invest in the "huge opportunities" of the post-carbon economy.

Mr Harvie added: "Instead of sticking with the status quo in the face of more redundancies and financial instability, we could be planning for a transition and securing the future of our workers, our energy production and our economy."

'Downbeat and depressing'

During the debate, North East MSP Lewis Macdonald called on the Scottish government to undertake an "urgent and detailed" review of the impact of the current low oil price on the strength and stability of the economy.

He said: "Whatever the future prospects for North Sea oil, it is not a bonus and it is not a optional extra. It is of critical importance to us all and today it is under threat."

Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said the Greens had put forward a "remarkably downbeat and depressing view of a sector that is still important", to which Mr Harvie replied that "burning all the oil and gas is not compatible with our survival".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Aberdeen and the North East of Scotland has relied on the oil industry for decades

Mr Ewing said companies would go into administration if "the Green recipe is adopted", arguing that there were many fields where "oil and gas and renewables go hand in hand".

He said: "Without all of us supporting the work that companies in Scotland do right now, for 2016 and for the foreseeable future, then we won't see companies go into transition, we'll see companies go into administration."

A Scottish government spokeswoman said renewable sources supplied about half of Scotland's total electricity needs.

She added: "We have a clear policy for a balanced energy mix to provide energy security for the future that balances fossil fuels alongside the growing importance of renewables."

Last year the government created the Energy Jobs Taskforce, which is working with the North Sea oil industry to tackle the changes that lie ahead.

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