A Tory councillor in Aberdeen has slammed the call for the city to hold a North Sea oil jobs and industry summit as a party-political stunt by the Labour-led administration.
Over this year, the price of Brent crude – the North Sea’s benchmark – has slumped by 45% from around $100-barrel. Earlier today, the price continued to drift around the $60-barrel level.
Just before the council shut down for a 14-day holiday over Christmas, Aberdeen council leader Jenny Laing called a crisis summit to be held over the likely jobs impact on Grampian if world oil prices continue at about $60-barrel.
Councillor Ross Thomson, leader of the Scottish Conservative group on Aberdeen council said: “I am extremely disappointed at how this proposed summit has been announced.
“There is confusion amongst the industry and Governments about the proposed summit because it has been foisted into the public domain with no remit, no agenda, no date, no venue, no consultation, no discussion and no invitations.
“So far it has been nothing short of a Labour Party press release to grab a headline. My concern is that with no substance behind it there is the potential for this summit to fall flat on its face or achieve nothing other than people gathering round a table to achieve nothing as there are no set aims or goals.”
Earlier this month, Scottish Energy News reported that the city is expected to take the brunt of a forecast 23,000 net jobs loss by 2020. See also: http://www.scottishenergynews.com/search/23%2C000+jobs
Meanwhile, Cllr Jim Gifford, Conservative leader of the adjoining Aberdeenshire Council, welcomed an economic summit on the future of the oil and gas industry.
He said: “Once the details of the summit are announced, Aberdeenshire Council will make sure it is fully involved. The oil and gas industry is incredibly important, not only to the North East economy, but to the economy of Scotland and the rest of the UK.
“We must also be careful not to over-react to circumstances over which we have limited, if any, control and talk ourselves into a problem that is bigger than it really is. We know that the industry is cyclical and has highs and lows determined by the world-wide price of oil.”
“Over recent weeks we have seen some parts of the oil and gas industry reduce their costs by shedding jobs and reducing pay. However, anyone who spends time in and around Aberdeen will know that the market has become over-heated with spiralling house prices and the public sector simply unable to recruit to posts due to the high salaries being offered by the private sector. There are still plenty of opportunities for people who want to work in the area, and I believe the effect of the oil prices will start to redress the balance of the local economy.
“Oil and gas is a global industry, and the oil prices are affected by situations far outside our control. We must ensure that our response is proportionate and we focus our efforts on doing all we can to alleviate local pressures.”
However, Cllr Thomson added: “If <this summit> is to discuss oil price then unfortunately there is nothing that Aberdeen City Council, Scottish or UK Government can do about that. However, I do believe that this summit can be used instead to be a platform for Aberdeen city and shire to launch and highlight our City Deal bid.
“Already this summit – which to date is only an idea rather than a firm proposal – has grown arms and legs.
I read that Willie Rennie (Leader, Scottish LibDems) and Alistair Carmichael (Scottish Secreary) are attending and yesterday I read that Labour are sending Jim Murphy (Leader, Scottish Labour) and Lewis MacDonald (Lab, MSP). “This is becoming a farce and to date a free for all.
“We need to be absolutely clear that if this summit is to be a success and can gain the constructive dialogue we need the invitations and guest list to be determined by our Chief Executive in collaboration with the industry.
“This is not for any political party to grand stand and members need to stop using it to point score.
Although I do not want to tell the <Aberdeen council> chief executive who to invite as the decision lies with her, my advice would be that politicians like Jim Murphy, Willie Rennie and even my own leader Ruth Davidson will play no role in shaping our city deal bid and at the end of the day they are not the decision makers we need present.
“If we are to survive the decline in oil we all recognise that we have to work to maintain our skills base and the service companies based here in the North East. Further, we want to ensure that we maximise the potential of the North Sea by securing confidence and investment.”