Balls joins oil ‘crisis’ talks

Published: Tuesday 20th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls will take part in talks with representatives of the oil and gas industry today during a day of action to address Scotland’s oil “crisis”.

Mr Balls will be joined by Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy for the discussions in Aberdeen.

Labour has accused the governments in London and Edinburgh of “inaction” over the issue and said the pair will discuss what both administrations need to do to help the sector.

The energy sector has seen recent job losses following the plunge in oil prices, and unions fear more losses in the coming weeks.

Last week, Schlumberger, the world’s largest oil and gas services group, confirmed that North Sea jobs would be lost as part of its plans to cut 9,000 posts internationally – a move which followed 300 job cuts announced by BP.

At Westminster today, Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran will lead the opposition response to a House of Commons debate on the oil and gas sector in Scotland, called by Aberdeen Labour MP Frank Doran.

She said: “The crisis in Scotland’s oil and gas industry is one of the biggest challenges facing Scotland’s economy right now.

“The industry currently supports nearly 450,000 jobs across the country, with many concentrated in Aberdeen.

“Last week we saw job losses, and we have been warned that this could be the biggest threat to Scottish jobs since Ravenscraig shut its doors 23 years ago. Despite this, we have seen inaction from both of Scotland’s Governments.”

Labour said the debate marks the first time MPs will have had an opportunity to question the Government about their response to the crisis.

Ms Curran went on: “Scottish Labour has already set out the action we want from the Scottish Government to alleviate the crisis.

“We need the UK Government to come forward with their long term plan for the industry to provide operators with some certainty, and we need the Scottish Government to set up a resilience fund so that Aberdeen and the surrounding areas do not have to bear the brunt of losses in the industry.

“Today, in Aberdeen and in London, we will challenge the Scottish and UK Governments to step up and take the action that is needed.”

The SNP said Labour must clearly back proposals for a reduction in tax on the oil and gas industry to ensure a vibrant future for the North Sea.

Plans to reduce the supplementary charge levied on oil companies and to create an exploration tax credit have been put forward by the Scottish Government.

Speaking ahead of the debate at Westminster, SNP Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “Every day without action from the UK Government risks further damage to the oil and gas industry. Businesses and oil workers in the North Sea do not need to wait for another review, they need action now.

“Labour must give their full support to the immediate reduction in the supplementary charge and support an exploration tax credit that would secure a strong future for the North Sea.

“The Scottish Government has set out clear proposals that would support the industry and industry experts like Sir Ian Wood have endorsed our approach.

“So far Labour have only shown interest in talking the industry down and playing party political games. The oil and gas industry has had enough of warm words – what is needed is action and action now.

“Instead of sitting back and doing nothing, Labour must endorse the immediate action that the industry and the Scottish Government have been calling for.”

Published: Tuesday 20th January 2015 by The News Editor

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