NICOLA Sturgeon has announced a £24.5 million fund to support the oil and gas industry as the crisis-stricken sector continues to face the threat of jobs losses.
The First Minister unveiled the package during a visit to Aberdeen, which has been hit hard by unemployment due to the slump in oil prices.
Ms Sturgeon’s visit to the Granite City came as details of a £20m of redevelopment of Aberdeen International Airport were set out, in the largest transformation of the site since the current terminal first opened its doors in 1977.
She said a Scottish Government Transition Training Fund of £12m will make grants available to unemployed oil workers to help them retrain or go through further education.
The scheme is aimed at keeping the “highly-skilled energy workforce” in the North Sea region of Aberdeen and the North East. It will also help people with the costs of maintaining any licences they need to work in the sector.
Ms Sturgeon also set out details of funding of £12.5 million from government agency Scottish Enterprise to help oil and gas firms research and develop new technologies and access advice from industry experts.
The move came just weeks after trade body Oil & Gas UK warned that times remained tough for the industry and its workers, with more job losses expected in the next few months on top of 65,000 jobs stripped from Britain’s offshore oil sector last year. Ms Sturgeon said the job cuts were “distressing” for those affected and represented a major blow to the industry as a whole.
She said: “There is no doubt that the conditions facing the North Sea oil and gas sector are extremely challenging and the downturn in the oil prices is having a very real impact on the workforce, with significant and hugely concerning job losses.
“This is not just distressing for those individuals affected; it has a wider impact on the industry, with the risk that the highly skilled workforce is lost to the sector as they look for opportunities elsewhere.”
Ms Sturgeon’s visit follows the signing last week of a joint UK and Scottish government £250 million city deal for Aberdeen and the surrounding area.
Scottish ministers have also pledged a further £254 million to improve infrastructure in the north-east over the next five to 10 years as the North Sea oil and gas sector struggles to cope with plummeting prices.
Ms Sturgeon said Scottish Enterprise had begun research looking at any gaps in the availability of finance for the industry.
Meanwhile, it was announced work will begin at Aberdeen International Airport in May to increase the terminal building by 50 per cent, with new passenger services including an expanded baggage reclaim and upgraded security search area.
Carol Benzie, the airport’s managing director, said: “Now more than ever, it is vital that we invest in our airport to help improve the region’s attractiveness as a key investment destination.”