“Putting people before profit” urges the Buckie Just Transition meeting

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People before profit – that was the resounding message from a public meeting in Buckie that highlighted the just transition from oil to renewables.

Last Thursday, Portessie Public Hall provided the venue for the event, which was organized by a group of six that included Sophie Legge, Sally Thane, Charlotte Hay, David Blair, Edwin Devlin and Neil Rothney.

Members of the audience at the meeting were joined by Buckie councilors Sonya Warren and Jon Stewart – fellow ward councilor Neil MacLennan could not attend due to a prior commitment – as well as North East Conservative MSP Tess White and Murray council working group leader Sandy Keith.

After welcoming the attendees, a short film, ‘Offshore’, was screened examining the past, present and future of the offshore industry, to which the Buckie District has been a major contributor over the decades since North Sea oil came online. It also went on to examine the challenges facing oil industry workers in switching to renewable energy sources, particularly wind energy.

The meeting was then opened in front of the room, facilitated by Barry Jarvis.

Opening the meeting, Mr. Rothney said: “The film is about the transition from oil and gas to wind energy.

“If it is going to be fair and just, it will depend on those people who will be affected accepting nothing but fairness—the oil workers should expect the same degree of fairness as the rest of us.”

“They have to expect a future for themselves and their children.

“If left to the oil industry, the transition would only be fair to its shareholders. The cost-of-living crisis is linked to oil companies.

“We need to talk about what is happening on the ground and how warm families can be [in their own homes]. “

The theme of oil companies putting profit before people and the future of the planet, not to mention the safety of their often fearful workforce – the Piper Alpha disaster has been mentioned on many occasions, including the fact that its sister rigs continued to pump oil after the initial blowout, which resulted in To fanning the inferno that took the lives of 167 people – it was big over the course of the evening.

Mr. Rothney went on to make an impassioned plea for profit-driven oil and gas companies not to be governed by Just Transition.

He warned, “The oil industry will destroy the planet, and you can’t leave the transition in their hands.

Left to their own devices, they will send us all screaming to hell.

“The only real people the oil workers listen to are their mothers, wives and daughters. If they don’t talk they do. [oil workers] You’ll do what the oil companies tell them to do.”

Ms. White, who spoke of her 35 years of experience in the oil and gas industry, including a term on the board of Shell Renewable Energy, said during the meeting that she believed oil companies should be part of the solution.

She said: “Just transition are just words that don’t mean much to a lot of politicians – we need more than words, we need a stable and safe place where people can work abroad.

Events like tonight can help turn those words into action.

“Oil companies have to be part of the solution. They don’t demonize oil and gas companies, they are partners and they have the money to invest and they can do skills training that can transfer to renewables.”

Ms. White continued to stress the importance of a quality education system that produces young people with the skills needed to thrive in the renewable energy sector.

A recurring theme during the meeting was the difficulty some oil and gas workers have had in transferring their skills to offshore wind power generation.

In terms of job opportunities, “It’s the way forward, there’s a lot of work out there,” commented Devlin, who has transitioned himself from the oil industry to renewables.

The discussion focused on skills passports, allowing workers to move seamlessly between the two industries without having to spend thousands of pounds on the retraining needed to obtain the necessary certifications.

Susan Chalmers, who participated from the hall, said: “There are skills passports but no transferability for health and safety training, which is different for industries.

“It’s the prickly mass.”

Chalmers added that while there was a lot of focus on discussions of oil extraction, hydrocarbons needed to be used for plastics rather than fuels and what was going to be used as a replacement for a material that is ubiquitous in modern society.

Acquiring people with the right skills was not just an issue for the renewable energy sector, said Consultant Warren, who owns Gateway Control Systems, but a much broader one.

She continued, “You have to remember that we have a large population and workforce, it’s about how do we get more young people to apply with the right skills.”

“It’s not just about the oil sector, it’s about giving everyone the right skills.

“With an aging workforce, we have to help people continue to work in a way that allows them to share their knowledge and experience.”

Infrastructure has also formed the basis of much of the discussion, with views divided over Scotland’s ability to manufacture the elements needed to expand its renewable energy industry, much of which is currently manufactured in the Far East and shipped to Scotland, according to contributors to the meeting. The impact of this on the carbon footprint has also been noted.

Consultant Keith noted that the offshore manufacturing industry had previously been established in the likes of Nigg and Ardersier.

“It’s been done before, and we can do it again,” he added.

Infrastructure isn’t just about manufacturing, Devlin added, but includes the likes of adequate hotel accommodations at crew change ports – something he said he lacks at Buckie.

Mr. Blair urged those present at the meeting not to forget that profit still belongs to the oil companies and, for him, was the root cause of the cost-of-living problems facing society.

He said: “In a recent report by Unite, the 350 largest publicly listed companies – not just oil and gas companies – have seen their profit margins increase by 89 per cent since before the pandemic.

“The cost of living crisis is really a crisis of greed.”

At the end of the meeting, it was decided to take things further, including inviting other MSPs and influencers to a future meeting.

BLOB More on this story at www.grampianonline.co.uk

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