ACTIVISTS and MPs are questioning accuracy of a figure which claims 200,000 jobs are supported by the UK's oil and gas industry in the North Sea.

The figure, which was produced by oil and gas trade body Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), has been used repeatedly by Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho as a defence of the UK Government’s decision to “max out” domestic fossil fuel exploration.

Indeed, OEUK have said placing restrictions on the industry jeopardises 200,000 jobs.

However numerous charities, campaign groups and MPs have called for greater scrutiny of the data, suggesting that it does not accurately reflect the true number of people employed by the oil and gas industry.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of workers directly employed in the UK’s oil and gas industry is 27,600.

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However, the OEUK figure – which was based on research conducted by Experian - includes those employed “indirectly” by the industry “such as cafes and hairdressers in places which depend on the energy industry as the main employer”.

The Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Green MP Caroline Lucas have both asked parliamentary questions, requesting a breakdown of the calculations involved and questioning whether the government should be using such a figure to guide policymaking.

OEUK told The Guardian that the figures were reached by using ONS job figures and tracking expenditure to calculate the number of direct, indirect and induced jobs.

But activists said the use of these figures by the UK Government was politically-driven.

"The government’s lazy reliance on industry data is indicative of its hands off approach to the transition in general,” said Tessa Khan, executive director of Uplift.

The National: Rosebank has faced strong opposition from environmental campaigners (Lucy North/PA)

“Instead of getting across the detail and coming up with a coherent plan, this government has abdicated responsibility for making sure workers and communities aren’t left behind to the market and an industry that prioritises shareholder returns over investment in jobs.

"The government uses these jobs figures to score political points, when what's urgently needed are politicians prepared to take a clear eyed look at the sector and where it is headed and who will come up with a plan for delivering a managed and crucially fair transition for workers and communities.”

While Jess Ralston of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said the UK Government’s focus on jobs in the fossil fuel sector could be of a detriment to the renewables job market.

She added: “Analysis from Robert Gordon University suggests with greater investment in renewables, the offshore energy sector would not lose net jobs but rather gain 81,000 net jobs, with the increase in renewables jobs more than times the decrease in oil and gas jobs.

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“More than nine in ten current oil and gas workers have a medium to high level of skills that can be transferred to renewables, but the Government failed to agree any new offshore wind farms during its last auction and is set to lowball the next.

“This is about people's livelihoods. If the Government wanted to ensure job security the evidence suggests it should be trying much harder to boost offshore wind and helping workers transfer to an industry with a brighter future.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero defended the use of OEUK’s figures.

“Offshore Energies UK has been clear that backing domestic oil and gas does support around 200,000 jobs and this is a figure we have cited,” they said.

“The industry also generates billions in tax revenues to fund public services and to support with the cost of living and retains the skills and expertise needed for the green transition.”

It comes after the UK Government announced its intention to greenlight more oil and gas projects in the North Sea, including the controversial Rosebank development off the coast of Shetland.

This is despite pleas from hundreds of climate scientists and academics not to do so.