In the year that COP26 comes to Scotland Neil Rothnie asks why there is no public debate on the Petroleum Amendment Bill
For the last 15 months the Petroleum Amendment Bill has been sitting on the table in the House of Lords. The Bill is a private member’s bill based on the recommendations of the Sea Change report. It calls for an end to oil and gas exploration, the rapid phasing out of production and a transition for oil and gas workers into the renewables industry. 270,000 jobs are supported by the industry.
So just when were the oil and gas workers, their families and communities going to be informed of the existence of this plan, and get the opportunity to scrutinise and discuss it?
Who has been in on this discussion? Who has been making what plans?
Presumably the Government has a view on the Bill. Why the silence? Their current plan, the Act that the Bill aims to amend, is spectacularly unfit for purpose. It calls for “maximising economic recovery” of North Sea oil and gas. This is at complete odds with their claim to be leading the world against climate change. When UK Cabinet Minister, Alok Sharma, chairs the COP26 discussions in Glasgow in November is he going to be inviting delegates from Russia, Saudi Arabia, America, China and every other fossil fuel producer to follow the UK lead and maximise economic recovery of their own fossil fuels?
Are the trade unions in on the discussion? Have they informed their members on the North Sea what is being proposed?
Does the industry not feel the need to comment on a radical plan that has massive implications for their business on the North Sea and internationally. If it’s necessary in the UK such a plan not necessary internationally?
Do the Labour Party, the SNP and the Greens have positions on the Bill? Lady Sheehan is a Liberal Democrat so presumably her party has a view. What is it?
Why the silence? Does the media, the BBC and the newspapers, know of the existence of this Bill. Are they deliberately ignoring it and going to continue only to report what is written for them in the oil company public relations departments? A proud tradition that has disappeared the North Sea from national scrutiny.
What about the environmental movement itself? Scot.E3 has been campaigning on employment, energy and environment for three and a half years; but such is the silence that it was only alerted when Baroness Sheehan and Mary Robinson (past President of Ireland) alluded to the Bill in a recent article in the Times.