A new Scottish Government Energy Jobs Taskforce will be established to support Scotland's oil and gas sector to tackle the slump in N. Sea oil prices, which have fallen by more than 50% since last summer.
The energy industry as a whole is crucial to the Scottish Economy with the oil and gas sector alone supporting almost 2,000 Scottish supply chain companies and 225,000 jobs across the country.
The new Taskforce, will be chaired by Lena Wilson, the part-time chief executive of Scottish Enterprise.
She will report to the Scottish Energy Advisory Board and will focus on supporting jobs across the energy sector, but with an initial emphasis on the oil and gas sector – by 30 January.
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "Energy is an area where Scotland has a strong comparative advantage with its unique geographic opportunities and established expertise. This has led to the development of world leading technologies and skills in our oil and gas industry.
"That's why I have established the Energy Jobs Taskforce, to make sure that partners are working across the sector both to maintain jobs and to mitigate the potential impact of any losses.
"I've seen for myself how Scottish companies such as Sea Energy Ltd are continuing to see success by signing major overseas deals."
Sturgeon also announced a guarantee for Modern Apprentices (MAs) in Scotland's oil and gas sector to ensure that any faced with redundancy will be offered alternative employment or continued off the job training pending alternative employment.
Additional support will be made available specifically to the oil and gas sector to enhance the offer available through the Adopt an Apprentice programme, which offers firms incentives to re-employ MAs who have have been made redundant.
The First Minister also confirmed her Cabinet meeting will be held in Aberdeen on 16 February, which will include a meeting of the Scottish Energy Advisory Board. The membership of the Taskforce will comprise of SEAB members, including:
- Scottish Government
- Scottish Funding Council
- Local authorities
- Oil and Gas UK
- Union representatives
- Engineering and oil and gas industry representatives"
Sturgeon added: "The North Sea has made an enormous contribution to the Scottish and UK economies over the last 40 years. It is now vital, in order to prolong the life of the industry beyond 2050 and maximise economic benefits, that the UK Government maintains the momentum for fiscal and regulatory change in the oil and gas sector.
"However, the recent drop in the price of a barrel of crude oil, combined with the mismanagement of oil and gas fiscal policy by the UK Government, and other challenges facing the industry, pose a threat to a number of jobs.
"I will also co-chair a meeting of the Scottish Energy Advisory Board meeting, bringing Ministers, academics and industry experts together to get a clear understanding of the issues facing the sector in Scotland."
MSP Jackie Baillie, Labour's Scottish Finance Spokesperson, said: "The falling oil price is the biggest threat to jobs in Scotland since Ravenscraig, and the Scottish Government has been silent on the issue."
According to a new report produced by the Scottish Parliament, 133,000 jobs in the North East are supported by the oil and gas industry.
Half of jobs (47%) in the North East are supported by North Sea oil and gas. The total number of jobs supported (direct, supply chain and employee spending) across the North East is 133,170. The latest data from the Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES) for 2013 shows employment of 284,000 across the area.
Over half of jobs in Aberdeen are supported by North Sea oil and gas. For Aberdeen (combining Aberdeen North and South) the BRES data shows employment of around 140,000 with Oil and Gas UK showing 73,680 jobs (17,640 + 50,040) supported by oil and gas. This means 53% of jobs in Aberdeen are supported by oil and gas (based on Oil and Gas UK's figures).
11,000 North East jobs are at risk – and this is before the recent price fall to below $50. If the 450,000 jobs identified by Oil and Gas UK 45% are within Scotland (202,500) this suggests the 133,170 jobs in the North East account for 66% of the jobs in Scotland. This means that if jobs losses were 16,000 then two thirds (66%) would be 10,560 jobs.