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Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston has warned of a potential Highland “exodus” following Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to oppose new oil and gas activities around Scotland

By Scott Maclennan

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MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston
MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston

The First Minister has faced considerable criticism since she said she is against future oil and gas exploration and extraction including the Cambo oil field off Shetland.

She said: “I don't think Cambo should get the green light. I don't think we can go on extracting oil and gas forever, and I don't think we can continue to give the go ahead to new oil fields.

“I have set out a proposal for a climate assessment and I think the presumption would be that Cambo could not and should not pass any rigorous climate assessment.”

Those words triggered a backlash as north MSPs fear not just the loss of high-quality jobs but also professionals who could leave for “other parts of the world as they seek to provide for themselves and their families.”

Highland MSP and the Scottish Conservative Shadow Minister for Business said it could also leave the UK in the position of having to import oil from places like Russia.

“These comments from Nicola Sturgeon will have cast a chill in many households across the Highlands and Islands, whose family income is derived from employment in oil and gas,” he said.

“The Scottish Government’s own development agency, Highlands and Islands Enterprise states quite clearly: ‘The industry is a significant contributor to the economy of the Highlands and Islands creating flexible, high value employment for thousands of people across all parts of the region.’

“And yet Nicola Sturgeon, at the urging of her Green coalition partners, is more than prepared to throw the entire sector under a bus, without any thought for the consequences.

“And it is entirely self-defeating. As the industry says itself, if we turn off the tap here, we’ll only end up importing oil from countries like Russia.

“Moreover, the SNP/Green coalition has made no assessment or put together any plan for all those they intend to make jobless.

“It’s quite clear that we require a transition plan as we move from fossil fuels but it must be on a realistic timescale, takes account of continuing demand for oil and gas, and ensures that there are comparable jobs available for people working in the sector that takes advantages of their skills and experience.

“The alternative is quite unthinkable: the loss of many of our most productive wage-earners, and an exodus to other parts of the world as they seek to provide for themselves and their families.”

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