SCOTTISH Labour’s new deputy leader Kezia Dugdale said Scotland’s oil industry was in “crisis” as she demanded an emergency plan from the SNP government to save jobs during her debut leading for her party at First Minister’s questions.
Ms Dugdale made the call as she faced Nicola Sturgeon for the first time in her new role of deputising for Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy - who sits as an MP.
Scotland’s oil and gas sector is facing job losses, wage cuts and expert warnings that it is “close to collapse” amid falling crude oil prices.
Ms Dugdale demanded an inquiry into what she claimed was the SNP government’s failure to see the slump in oil prices that poses a risk to thousands of jobs.
She said the SNP government “didn’t see this crisis coming” as she called on ministers to work more with trade unions and industry representatives to protect jobs.
Ms Dugdale said that Ms Sturgeon and the SNP had “got it so wrong” by overestimating oil prices and of failing to come up with a plan to support the sector.
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However, Ms Sturgeon said the oil and gas industry wanted MSPs of all parties to “unite” to call on the UK government to take decisive action to support jobs.
The Scottish Labour deputy leader said that the First Minister was “unprepared” for the crisis, and must take steps to safeguard jobs.
Ms Dugdale said: “Of course the UK Government should respond, and quickly, but the Scottish Government has to work with unions and the industry to maintain employment levels right now.
“What assurances can the First Minister give oil workers and their families that their jobs - what security do they have this Christmas from this Government?”
Ms Dugdale said the oil industry’s training academy is “desperate” for Government support to invest in skills to make sure that if the oil price rises again, people will be available to work in the sector.
“Isn’t it the truth that the Scottish Government just didn’t see this crisis coming, because they believed their own wishful thinking about oil prices,” she continued.
“Surely we cannot have a First Minister so unprepared, so unsighted on such a key industry.
“Will she initiate an inquiry into why her Government was so wrong in the past, so that we can get it right in the future?
“First Minister, there are tens of thousands of jobs at stake, you need to be able to tell the Scottish public why you got it so wrong in the past, so that you can get it right in the future.”
However, Ms Sturgeon said the SNP government had to set up the Energy Skills Academy “at least two years ago” to support skills development.
The SNP administration continues to support innovation, while Energy Minister Fergus Ewing is in constant contact with industry body Oil and Gas UK and other companies in the sector, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs.
She said: “The sector, the industry wants us to unite to call on the UK Government to accelerate action around the new investment allowance, they want us to unite to call on the UK Government to increase support for innovation, and I think we should call on the UK Government to take more action around reducing the supplementary charge.
“Let us come together to call for the sensible action that those in the industry want.
“I think that those whose jobs are under threat right now look at us and want to see us coming together in that way, not having a party political ding-dong.”
Ms Dugdale said the First Minister would receive support when she goes to the UK Government with her calls.
“But she must be reminded of the fact that she has at least six responsibilities to the oil and gas industry here in Scotland.
“She mentioned skills and innovation, but she also has responsibility for onshore business taxes, support for finding markets, supporting infrastructure and indeed diversifying the industry.
“So the same old answers about looking to Westminster for solutions just do not stack up.”
Robin Allan, chairman of the independent explorers’ association Brindex, has spoken of a “huge crisis”, as he said the industry was ‘’close to collapse’’.
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