Minister dismisses ‘false propaganda’ over oil industry

Scottish government minister Fergus Ewing (right) met Ocean Kinetics owner John Henderson who wants a dedicated training facility in the isles. Photo: Dave Donaldson
Scottish government minister Fergus Ewing (right) met Ocean Kinetics owner John Henderson who wants a dedicated training facility in the isles. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Shetland is ideally placed to capitalise on the potential still being realised from North Sea oil and gas reserves.

But work needs to be done to redress the “massive” skills shortage being felt in the industry.

That was the message from the Scottish government’s energy minister Fergus Ewing during a visit to the isles today.

He reiterated the SNP’s long-held claims that oil and gas reserves are strong enough, possibly for another 40 years.

Mr Ewing said young people needed to be encouraged to work in the industry, which – he said – could remain strong long enough to see them through their whole working lives.

He criticised successive Westminster governments for spreading “false propaganda” that the oil and gas industry was on its last legs.

The minister’s comments came after meetings with senior councillors and officials, where skills development in the energy sector came under the spotlight.

He also visited the Ocean Kinetics premises in Lerwick. Last year the company’s owner, John Henderson, called for a new dedicated training facility which could lead to newly-qualified welders and fabricators gaining apprenticeships and working in the isles.

“The main focus was, perhaps, on skills and how we make sure people on these islands have the opportunity to benefit in oil and gas and, certainly, how young people can have a whole career in oil and gas,” said Mr Ewing.

“It’s contrary to what our friends in London have been telling us for decades. It’s not running out, and Shetland is – in many ways – at the epicentre of the opportunities west of Shetland and in the North Sea. It’s not running out, so young people have the opportunity of a whole career.”

Mr Ewing said industry needed to do more to provide skills needed, he said, for 30 to 40 years’ worth of work.

He highlighted work in the Clair Field, Kraken, Statoil’s Mariner and Bentley [owned by Xcite Energy Resources] as examples of projects for the future “that have already been announced”, together with other North Sea fields that, he said, were having their lives extended.

“I think a generation of young people have been deterred from going into the industry because of false propaganda from some of the Westminster parties that the industry was dead, or dying. Wrong. It is not dead or dying. It has another, possibly, half century.”

Mr Ewing said skills developed in Scotland were being deployed across the globe.

On renewables, he said a meeting was due to be held this month with UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey to discuss the case for grid connections to the islands.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) recently announced additional support for Scottish island wind power generation – £115/MWh, compared to £90/MWh on the mainland.

“We think that the strike price of £115/MWh for offshore island wind energy is a welcome step because it, in principal, recognises there is a need for a special measure for islands.

“However, we don’t think it goes far enough in that the CfD

[Contract for Difference – another term for strike prices] needs to be extended beyond 2019.

“The mechanism is effectively time-limited, and it will expire before connections may come on stream.”

Speaking after the visit Mr Henderson said a pilot scheme had run in Scalloway during the summer months for apprentices and other workers seeking to retrain.

He hoped a further initiative would take off, with help from HIE, NAFC and Train Shetland.

“There is a Nigg training academy down near Inverness, which basically is advanced welding training. We feel there was a need for that kind of training in Shetland,” he said.



Add Your Comment
  • Ali Inkster

    • March 18th, 2014 17:15

    Education has been the remit of Edinburgh ever since devolution so the SNP have had it in their power to do something about this since they took office, yet they continue to blame Westminster, a bit misleading of Fergus is it not. But standard practice for the SNP anything good happens it is solely down to them any bad it is always the fault of Westminster. Just who are they going to blame should they get a yes vote and things start to go badly wrong.

    • Michael Davies

      • March 19th, 2014 11:53

      Yes – sometimes I think that if Scotland goes independent then the SNP will no longer have a role.

      Fergus Ewing’s belief that only people who want Shetland to join Norway would support a referendum on Shetland’s status shows how remote he is from us.

  • Rupert Smith

    • March 19th, 2014 11:00

    Unless I am mistaken Xcite Energy owns the Bentley oil field. If Statoil have bought it then it has yet to be announced.

    • Helge Lund

      • March 19th, 2014 14:36


      I thought you were happy with £7 per share and a 10% bonus if 2P exceeds 1.5 billion barrels?

      Helge Lund

  • James Mackenzie

    • March 19th, 2014 13:05

    Ah these politicians! And some of our local ones have not been averse to scaremongering about the decline of the oil industry and young folk emigrating.

    As for renewables, Fergus Ewing appeared to be making a pitch for independence on Radio Shetland last night, implying that an interconnector would be installed a lot quicker with independence, and of course everything would be wonderful, if it wasn’t for the UK government.
    Then Ed Davey comes out and says this about renewables’ subsidies: “If Scotland were to choose to go it alone, maintaining this level of support would take up a greater proportion of national finances – meaning either higher taxes, higher energy bills or cuts in other areas, with welfare, housing, education, health, defence maybe losing out.”

    It all makes me want to emigrate, but then I’m getting old…

    • John Tulloch

      • March 19th, 2014 14:21

      No need to emigrate, James. If Shetland gets a referendum Shetlanders will be able to decide for themselves “What kind of Shetland do you want to live in?”

      Lesley Riddoch has written a book, “Blossom”, about how rural communities are empowered in Scandinavia, calling – alas, vainly – for similar arrangements to apply in Scotland.

      I believe her talk on 27th, May, will be of great interest, especially, to those who live in rural Shetland.

  • Ivan Coghill

    • March 20th, 2014 23:35

    Why don’t you ask “Cameron” for a Shetland referendum? In that way, you would not be suspected of being tendentious Unionists.

  • Bob Robertson

    • March 21st, 2014 18:45

    I want to live in a Shetland that warmer and less windy…


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