SNP minister points finger at UK Government for green jobs failures

SNP Just Transition Minister Richard Lochhead
SNP Just Transition Minister Richard Lochhead

AN SNP minister has blamed the UK Government for a failure to produce the number of promised green jobs and has called on Westminster to match funding to help transform fossil fuels industries into renewables.

The Scottish Government had insisted that by 2020, 130,000 green jobs would be tallied up, but little more than 20,000 opportunities were in place, according to data by the Office For National Statistics (ONS).

But SNP Just Transition Minister, Richard Lochhead, has pointed the finger at Westminster for failing to grant a key carbon capture investment, the Acorn project, priority status.

He instead highlighted the potential number of future jobs, insisting the Scottish Government hopes to “create hundreds of thousands of green jobs in the coming years”.

Conservative MSP Miles Briggs pressed Mr Lochhead over an “industrial strategy” to ramp up the number of green jobs created.

He said: “The Scottish Government had pledged that there would be 130,000 green jobs by 2020, but the Office for National Statistics estimates that employment in the low-carbon and renewable energy sector dropped from 21,700 to 20,500 in 2020.

“That is the fourth consecutive year in which we have seen a reduction in green jobs.

“What plans do ministers have, alongside industry, to bring forward a new and updated strategy, to make sure that we can realise the potential that green jobs have in the renewable energy and the carbon neutral retrofitting sectors?”

Despite the failure to follow through on a key pledge, Mr Lochhead insisted that “Scotland is making significant progress in creating green jobs”.

He pointed to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers that he said “shows that Scotland is the best-performing part of the United Kingdom for green jobs created”, adding that “Scotland is well positioned to maximise the benefits of green investment”.

Mr Lochhead also raised issue with the ONS’s “very narrow definition of green jobs”.

He said: “I am convinced that many green jobs are being created throughout Scotland at the moment.

“Indeed, the Scottish Government’s hydrogen policy statement says that that policy could create up to 300,000 green jobs in Scotland.

“The Acorn project, which the UK Government is not supporting, could have created 20,600 jobs if the UK Government had given it the go-ahead, as it should have done.

“Our heat in buildings strategy could potentially create 16,400 green jobs, and we hope that the renewables projects in the onshore wind industry prospectus could create 17,000 jobs.

“Scotland is on course to create hundreds of thousands of green jobs in the coming years, if we put our plans into practice and support them, and if, where appropriate, those projects have UK Government support.”

The minister highlighted his Government’s 10-year £500m just transition fund for Moray and the North East, adding that “the UK Government should play a much bigger role in this”.

He added: “After all, it has extracted hundreds of billions of pounds from the North Sea in oil revenue.

“If it were to match the £500 million commitment from the Scottish Government, that would go a long way to ensuring that we have a just transition in the north-east of Scotland and Moray in the years ahead.

“I gave the example of the Acorn project, which would have created thousands of new jobs from next year onwards.

“It was the project that was best positioned to get the go-ahead in the UK, but the Conservative UK Government said no to it, which caused a lot of anger in the industrial community in Scotland.”