THE UK Government is being challenged to invest £500 million in the north east of Scotland as part of a “just transition” away from the oil and gas sector to more environmentally friendly forms of energy.

The Scottish Government has already pledged it will invest this amount in the north east and Moray over the next 10 years – with Holyrood’s Finance and Economy Secretary Kate Forbes calling on ministers in London to match that commitment.

She made the plea as she vowed that SNP ministers would not “abandon” workers in the oil and gas sector in the way the Tories did to heavy industries in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s.

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With the country looking to recover economically from the impact of coronavirus,  Forbes told the SNP national conference that “recovery means that we can, and must, do things differently”.

She stated: “We have an opportunity to deliver a just transition to a new economy as we tackle the climate emergency.

“I want to be clear that, in doing so, we will not abandon our workers and communities in that process.

“Thirty years ago, at a previous industrial crossroads, the government of the day abandoned workers and forgot about industry.

“But you have our commitment, we will not allow history to repeat itself in Scotland.”

With the Scottish Government promising £500m of cash over the next 10 years in a just transition fund for the north east and Moray, Forbes added: “I challenge the UK Government here and now to match our commitment, to match our £500 million pledge in Moray and the north east over the next 10 years.”

Her call for cash came at the same time as she accused the Tories at Westminster of seeking to dismantle the devolution settlement in Scotland.

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SNP ministers have accused the UK Government of using initiatives such as the Levelling Up Fund and the Union Connectivity Review to fund projects directly in Scotland that should be under the control of the devolved Scottish Government.

“The party of Brexit is now taking back control from Scotland,” Forbes said.

She stated: “It might sound dry and technical but how we use our country’s wealth to service our citizens is the bedrock of our movement and the ability to decide how we spend our money is at great risk.

“You see the Tories, knowing they are unlikely ever to secure power in Scotland through a democratic process, are now dismantling the devolution settlement.”

The Finance Secretary said the Conservatives were looking to “impose their pet projects on Scotland, all wrapped up in a Union Jack”.

She added: “The very fact that the Tories accept the need, in their words, to ‘level up’ reveals the decades of disregard and disdain for Scotland.”

But she insisted: “Levelling up is a con, and it is anything but a fair and rightful redistribution of wealth and resources.”