Isles MSP Tavish Scott is calling for jobs in the burgeoning decommissioning industry to stay in Scotland – with Shetland able to take on a lot of the work.
Mr Scott quizzed Nicola Sturgeon about the issue at First Minister’s Questions and believes Shetland has the ability to manage much of the demand.
He argues if oil and gas companies are given tax relief to decommission then such work should be carried out in the UK.
Ms Sturgeon said while she did not want to see premature decommissioning work in the North Sea, it provided “a massive economic opportunity”.
“We want to make sure that the benefit of that opportunity is enjoyed here in Scotland and not elsewhere,” she said.
“Part of what we need to do is exactly what Tavish Scott says; make sure that the tax incentive and the tax environment in place is the right one and we will continue to argue that case very strongly.”
Afterwards Mr Scott said:“The oil and gas industry is changing but decommissioning work could keep many people whose jobs are at risk in employment.
“However, we must make sure that this work is kept in Scotland rather than Norway or further afield and I believe we have the ability here in Shetland to handle much of the demand.
“I was pleased to hear that the First Minister will make the case to the UK Energy Secretary for tax relief to support local businesses who bid for decommissioning work and I will continue to press the Scottish government to protect jobs during this challenging time.”
Lerwick Port Authority has been a hive of activity, with major works including a £12 million dredging project, increasing capacity for larger vessels.
Mr Scott said: “Lerwick Port Authority is literally moving heaven and earth at the back of Lerwick to create the laydown area and the space for decommissioning.
“There will be a number of Shetland business who will be part of that in terms of the different requirements.” That includes waste disposal and safely removing materials.
“I want the Scottish government to keep a very close eye and a very supportive eye on the decommissioning industry to make sure that we miss no opportunity to bring in work both to Shetland and Scotland,” said Mr Scott.
“It’s very important that the Scottish government use Highlands and Islands Enterprise and other agencies to do that.
“If there are developments that the port authority here in Shetland need, I hope the Scottish government look favourably on them.”
Lerwick Port Authority chairwoman Sandra Laurenson welcomed the commitment from the First Minister.
She said a lot of decommissioning money was spent offshore, on work such as plugging and abandoning wells “there’s not a huge amount but it’s enough” she said.
Lerwick was in a good position to take on some of the work because of the facilities it could offer and the work was manageable for the local workforce.
The decommissioning market was “not mature yet” but Mrs Laurenson said decommissioning partners Peterson and Veolia Environmental services had been involved with a number of subsea decommissioning projects.
She believed the UK government had “a strong wish” for decommissioning work to stay in the UK and said there were suitable projects for Shetland in future.
“Our target is the really heavy stuff up in the East Shetland Basin which we think is not sensible to take too far afield,” she said.