Aberdeen council leader says ‘lack of detail’ over energy transition cash poses jobs threat

Aberdeen City Council leader Jenny Laing criticised a “lack of detail” over the promised £20 million to help the north-east shift to greener energy.

Ms Laing said the authority is in “early discussions” with the Scottish Government’s “net zero” budget pledge.

But she claimed there is a “lack of detail around what the money could be spent on and what projects may qualify for the funding”.

Speaking to a Holyrood committee, the council leader said there is confusion about the money being only for new projects.

Just Transition Fund

Ms Laing said the money must go to the “right areas” to ensure the north-east does not face a jobs “cliff edge” in a region where more than 65,000 people are employed in the sector.

The latest Scottish budget included just £20m of the £500m Just Transition fund for the north-east and Moray.

It will be used to help identify “key projects” in the move away from reliance on fossil fuel jobs.

But there has so far been no specific detail over what projects could benefit from the cash on offer.

The Aberdeen City Council leader told MSPs about the local authority’s efforts to create a hydrogen hub in the city in partnership with BP. 

BP has been named Aberdeen City Council's preferred bidder to design and build a hydrogen production facility in the city. Photo, left to right shows, Councillor Ryan Houghton, BP's UK chief Louise Kingham OBE and council leader Jenny Laing.
BP was named Aberdeen City Council’s preferred bidder to design and build a hydrogen production facility in the city. Photo from left to right shows Councillor Ryan Houghton, BP’s UK chief Louise Kingham OBE and council leader Jenny Laing.

She said: “I have talked about our hydrogen projects moving forward. Even if we are successful in bringing that to fruition, the plans we have got until 2030, it will provide 700 jobs. We’ve got in the region of 70,000 people dependent on oil and gas.

“On that basis we need to make sure that money is going out to the areas that are required in order to make sure we don’t reach that cliff edge in the north-east where we move away from those fossil fuels without anything to provide employment and economic growth for this area moving forward and that’s my concern.”

‘Full of empty promises’

Responding to Ms Laing’s response to his question, north-east MSP Liam Kerr said he was “astonished” at her testimony which he claims “highlight the Scottish Government’s Just Transition Fund is all talk and full of empty promises.

He added: “The lack of Scottish Government detail given to the council is nothing short of disgraceful considering this money is supposed to be for the north-east.

North-east MSP Liam Kerr.

“The local authority continues to do a lot of work with the creation of Aberdeen’s Hydrogen Hub yet doubt has been cast if these sort of existing plans will benefit from the Just Transition Fund.

“As Jenny Laing rightly says, the SNP-Green Government will consign thousands of jobs to the scrap heap if this transition is not done in a fair way which involves local authorities.”

‘New economic opportunities’

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The transition to net zero has to be made in a way that is fair and just, with no one left behind.

“Our 10-year £500m Just Transition Fund will give communities in the north-east and Moray a real say in their future, and create new economic opportunities in which they can thrive.

“The fund is being designed alongside the people most impacted, and we are already engaging with local authorities, business, workers and communities to make sure it meets their needs.

“We’re also providing £15m for Aberdeen City Council to deliver the Aberdeen Hydrogen Hub, Scotland’s first major green hydrogen production facility. Aberdeen’s hydrogen sector will also benefit from our Green Growth Accelerator programme, which aims to unlock £200m investment in low carbon infrastructure projects across Scotland.

“Taken together, these actions will help meet our net zero ambitions while delivering jobs and economic opportunities for the north-east.”

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