Grangemouth closure is a national emergency and demands an emergency response - Louise Gilmour

The question only lasted 14 seconds, but the answer will take months, all the way to next year’s general election and beyond.

Murdo Fraser was speaking in Holyrood on Wednesday, just hours after the owners of Grangemouth, Scotland’s biggest industrial complex, revealed plans to close the refinery by 2025.

The Tory MSP was to the point, asking his political opponents if their repeated promises of green jobs tomorrow are risking real jobs today?

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Has, he wondered, the rhetoric around our drive to net zero only undermined an oil and gas industry needed to underpin the journey to a greener tomorrow? He could, of course, have just as easily directed his question to Rishi Sunak and his many recent predecessors in Downing Street.

The plans of Grangemouth owners Petroineos are only another consequence of the enduring failure of ministers and policymakers, north and south of the border, to build an industrial strategy for renewables while blithely ignoring the clouds of uncertainty engulfing North Sea oil and gas.

It is a still a good question though and it is beyond time for a good answer capable of delivering more than photo opportunities for smart-casual politicians in hard-hats and purposeful expressions.

We have heard a lot about the thousands of jobs in renewable energy that will, sometime soon, replace the thousands and thousands of highly-skilled, highly-paid jobs in oil and gas. Surely, by now, it is time to see some.

If a single job had been created every time politicians pledged to protect and utilise the skills and experience of energy workers in a brighter, greener tomorrow, we would be there already.

Instead, the number of jobs to be created in renewables birls higher with every gust of hot air.

Will it be 50,000? Or 100,000? Fantastically, Scottish ministers promise 300,000 jobs may be created when we start exporting green hydrogen to Germany. There might be even more when we start selling pies to the sky.

When so many workers, families and communities reliant on energy jobs are facing such uncertainty, this kind of thing is not helpful. It is a diversion from meaningful action.

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Far-sighted planning instead of well-meaning wish lists demands industrial strategies, built on vision and investment, capable of speeding the drive to net zero while creating economic opportunity and the well-paid manufacturing and engineering jobs that go with it.

The news from Grangemouth fired an emergency flare above Scotland and demands an emergency response. Fourteen seconds is long enough for a wake-up call.

- Louise Gilmour is the GMB Scotland secretary



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