UK oil and gas industry ‘could be approaching point of no return’ - Unite survey

A North Sea oil platform. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

A North Sea oil platform. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire - Credit: PA

More than half of nearly 800 offshore workers polled say the oil and gas industry's future is in doubt without government help while almost a quarter believe the sector has no future.

The bleak picture emerged in a survey by the union Unite.

A total of 55% of those surveyed said the industry would only survive with government intervention and 24% said they could see 'no future for the offshore industry in the UK'. Just 6.9% believe the industry has a healthy future.

The Scottish and UK governments are not doing enough to support the offshore sector, 95.3% of workers surveyed said.

Almost nine in 10 of the 779 workers surveyed - 89.6% - backed Unite's call for the governments to buy stakes in offshore infrastructure such as pipelines or platforms.

Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: 'The message from our members and other offshore workers in this survey is clear - unless government starts to come up with some new thinking for the oil and gas industry, the future is looking very bleak.

'We have made repeated calls for a summit to bring together energy companies, trade unions, the Scottish government and the UK government, so that we can start planning for the future.

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'It's never happened, and we just can't understand why.

'We have repeatedly called on the Scottish government and the UK government to consider using their borrowing powers to take out public stakes in new offshore infrastructure, and to help protect existing infrastructure that might otherwise be decommissioned.

'We believe public stakes would encourage companies to also invest, supporting jobs, and creating returns for the public purse in the future.

'We are in the middle of a crisis, and unless there is action soon we could be approaching a point of no return. That would be devastating for the Scottish economy, particularly in the north east.

'Offshore workers are the people worst affected by this crisis - with attacks on their working conditions and as many as 120,000 jobs in the industry and wider economy forecast to be lost by the end of this year.

'Our members are clear - to protect their livelihoods and skills we need government action now.'

A Department for Business and Energy spokesperson said: 'The UK Government is committed to supporting our oil and gas sector, and the jobs which depend on it.

'That's why in the last two years we have put in place support worth £2.3bn and strengthened the North Sea's appeal to international investors as a global centre of excellence.

'With rising production output, significant reduction in operating costs and government support, there's a determination to create a long term future for an industry that makes a huge contribution to Scotland and the UK.'

Scotland's Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse said: 'The Scottish government remains committed to the oil and gas sector, supporting the work of the Energy Jobs Task Force, launching a £12m Transition Training Fund and bringing forward £12.5m to support innovation and business resilience.

'We have also provided £125m through the Aberdeen City Deal and a further £254m of additional investment to help sustain Aberdeen as one of the world's leading cities for investment and business.

'The UK government now needs to fulfil its responsibilities in respect of powers reserved to Westminster to do more to ensure the North Sea is an attractive place for investment and to ensure key infrastructure is maintained.

'The chancellor must therefore use his Autumn Statement this week to announce further support for the industry.

'For example, the chancellor should improve access to decommissioning tax relief, he should honour the promises made in Budget 2016 on loan guarantees for critical offshore infrastructure, and he should bring forward support for exploration. These measures will incentivise new investment and activity and provide a much-needed boost to the industry.'