Lib Dems demand 'fair transition' for Highland oil and gas workers
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Liberal Democrats are demanding a "fair transition" to new, sustainable jobs for oil and gas workers from the Highlands.
The party has outlined plans to establish a Highlands and Islands Just Transition Commission to take account of the region's "specific needs and unique opportunities".
The move builds on calls by Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart for a taskforce to help ensure the Highlands and Islands are not forgotten, after the Scottish Government announced a £500 million Just Transition Fund restricted to the north-east and Moray.
The commission proposals form part of the Lib Dems' plan to offer "new hope for the climate emergency" in the run-up to the COP26 conference in Glasgow.
Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP Jamie Stone said: “From the Port of Nigg to the Pentland Firth to Kishorn dry dock, the north Highlands have already shown incredible, world-leading renewable energy innovation.
“At the same time, the SNP/Green coalition does not seem to realise that many people in the Highlands still work in the oil and gas industry and haven’t yet found a way to switch to new sustainable jobs.
"There must be a fair transition for these people. Their jobs and livelihoods cannot be sacrificed.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Everywhere and everyone needs to adapt if Scotland is to have a sustainable future. No community should be left behind.
“The Highlands and Islands helped Scotland reach new heights of prosperity by adapting to make the most of the North Sea oil and gas. Now, people in these places are looking to the future and the potential a climate-friendly future could hold.
“But families, livelihoods and communities have been built around industries that are now in decline. These areas depend on future opportunities, and they need help to find them.
“This is a bid to recognise how important oil and gas has been to communities across the entire north of Scotland and ensure that everyone gets the skills, support and retraining they need to thrive."
The Scottish Government's 2021/22 Programme for Government, unveiled last month, includes a £500 million Just Transition Fund to support the north-east and Moray over the next decade.
Setting out a wide-ranging package of measures, economy secretary Kate Forbes said that promoting sustainable growth, supporting businesses and tackling skills shortages would be central to Scotland’s economic recovery.
Ms Forbes said: “Creating the right economic conditions and supporting sustainable growth is a foundation stone of our society – getting that right will combat poverty and generate the revenue to invest in the best public services.
“This Programme for Government provides a package of targeted investment to equip Scotland with the skills and technologies needed to achieve net-zero and create secure and satisfying jobs paying a fair wage.
“We are a pro-jobs, pro-business and pro-prosperity government and will continue working with companies to understand their needs and equip people with the skills that employers require."