THE oil and gas sector contributes £16 billion to the Scottish economy and provides more than 82,000 jobs, new research by a trade body for the industry has found.

Offshore Energies UK, who commissioned the research, said the eye-watering figures demonstrate the need for continued investment in the sector despite environmental activists demanding a halt to support for polluting industries.

The body, which represents more than 400 firms with an interest in offshore oil, gas, carbon capture and renewables, said investing in fossil fuel companies will aid long-term ambitions to tackle climate change.

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Greenpeace said the report shows the Government must act “urgently” to ensure workers in the sector aren’t left “high and dry” like miners in the wake of mass pit closures in the transition to green energy.

Philip Evans, oil and gas transition campaigner with the organisation, added: “In this cost of living crisis we need cheap, clean, homegrown power to bring our bills down - and we could get there by shifting our North Sea workforce towards offshore wind and other renewable energies.”

It comes amid a renewed debate on the UK’s so-called energy independence and the extent to which the state relies on energy imports in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Across the UK as a whole, oil and gas firms contribute £26bn to the economy in what research firm Experian called direct, indirect and induced activity.

More than 200,000 jobs across the UK are supported by the industry, the research found, meaning some 41% of these are in Scotland.

Offshore Energies UK said that the “range of professional and engineering services” in Scotland as a result of the industry will help with the transition to “a low-carbon future”.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned it is “now or never” in the race to cut emissions to curb the threat of life-threatening global warming.

In its latest report, the IPCC found that a global temperature increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040 would be devastating for the planet and humanity.

“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, chair of the IPCC.

“It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”

Richard Thomson, the MP for Angus, where many of his constituents are employed in the fossil fuel industry, said the research proved “how important the energy economy both is and will continue to be, not just to the north east but also to the wider Scottish economy”.

He added: “Within that industry are the people with the expertise, experience and drive to take us to net zero.

“It’s therefore vitally important to ensure that the transition path we follow retains those skills, embraces the opportunities of the Scottish Government’s £500million transition fund for the north east and fully capitalises on the economic prospects of being at the global forefront of the move to net-zero.”  

Maggie Chapman, the Scottish Greens’ just transition spokesperson, said that the push for cheaper green energy would be a “win for our planet and economy” and said investing in renewables would create “thousands of jobs” and rebuild communities.

She added: “We are living in a climate emergency, we simply cannot carry on with business as usual.”

Jenny Stanning, external relations director for the organisation, said: “Companies in Scotland help maintain the country’s supplies of home-produced oil and gas while also building the low carbon energy systems of the future.

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“By supporting the production of energy in the UK, we can attract the investment needed to avoid becoming increasingly reliant on imported energy, support jobs, and continue to make a significant contribution to the economy while meeting our climate goals, which is why we remain concerned about the impact of sudden new taxes on the sector at a time when we need to prioritise energy produced in the UK.”

The study comes after a frosty meeting between Rishi Sunak and oil and gas industry leaders last week in Aberdeen, the energy capital of the UK.

The Chancellor attempted to smooth relations with the sector, represented by firms such as Shell, BP and Harbour Energy, after announcing a 25% raid on their profits in response to the cost of living crisis.

Critics of Sunak’s move, which came after months of rejecting calls for a windfall tax on energy giants, said a loophole which grants tax breaks to firms investing in clean energy meant polluters could save millions in tax.