NICOLA Sturgeon has urged the Chancellor to take “urgent action” to protect oil and gas jobs by lowering taxes on in industry in his March budget.
The First Minister made her plea following a special meeting of the Scottish Cabinet devoted to the crisis caused by the falling oil price.
Ms Sturgeon said the Finance Secretary John Swinney would seek an urgent meeting with George Osborne to set out the Scottish Government’s view.
She also confirmed that the work of the Energy Jobs Task Force established last January and due to finish its work this month would be extended beyond its completion date.
It follows the announcement that BP is to cut around 600 jobs in the North Sea amid plummeting oil price that has seen the cost of a barrel of Brent crude oil fall from more than $100 in January 2014 to less than $30 in January 2016.
The First Minister said the Scottish Government would work with the industry to help remove barriers to exploration, support the training and re-skilling of staff, enable technology to improve production and address issues of access to finance.
She said: “There is no doubt the industry is currently facing an extremely challenging outlook, but oil and gas can continue to make a significant contribution to the Scottish economy and energy security for decades to come.
“However, this will only be achieved if we support the industry through this difficult period, encourage investment and ensure it remains well placed to benefit from a future upturn in oil prices.
“Cabinet today agreed to focus our efforts, along with those of the Energy Jobs Taskforce, on the key areas of skills, exploration, innovation, and access to finance.”
Ms Sturgeon continued: “The Scottish Government is taking action to support the industry at this difficult time, but this needs to be matched by a commitment from the UK Government to address the fiscal regime in which the industry operates.
“Only the Chancellor can deliver the competitive tax regime that the sector requires at this moment and following our discussions today, we will continue to make the case to the UK Government for urgent action in the forthcoming Budget to lower the tax burden on the industry, a move that will help to protect jobs and investment.”
The Cabinet meeting was attended by Lena Wilson of Scottish Enterprise – the chair of the Energy Jobs Taskforce.
The Scottish Government said it intended to help the workforce by supporting training and helping redeployment within the industry.
Work will be carried out to remove barriers to further exploration and improve collaboration between industry and academia to foster innovation.;
The Scottish Government said it would link up with the Oil & Gas Authority, enterprise agencies and local partners to deliver urgent action in each of these areas.
Downing Street said that Energy Secretary Amber Rudd delivered a presentation to the UK Cabinet this morning on the North Sea oil industry.
A Number 10 spokesman said the presentation was made “in the context of the falling oil price and the impact that is having on the oil industry”.
The spokesman added: “There was a discussion around that and around how we move forward to ensure that we continue to support that industry as much as we can.”