GRANGEMOUTH oil refinery will be a real test of whether the next UK Government can deliver a just transition for the people of Scotland, trade union bosses warned at hustings in key General Election constituency.  

Roz Foyer, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), chaired the Keep Grangemouth Working hustings on Tuesday night, and warned the constituency candidates and the next UK Government that they need to invest into the plant’s future.  

“If we can't do it here in Grangemouth right here, right now, we're never going to do it properly,” she said.  

READ MORE: Tory candidate ducks General Election hustings in key Grangemouth area

Proposals to cease operations at the oil refinery as soon as 2025 were announced last year by its owner Petroineos, a joint venture between the Chinese state-owned oil firm and British billionaire James Ratcliffe. 

This is despite Petroineos declaring pre-tax annual profits of £107.4m in March, as 400 of the 500 jobs at the site are set to be axed with its closure. 

Candidates at last night's husting for the Alloa and Grangemouth constituency were thoroughly grilled by both union representatives, workers from the plant, and members of the local community. 

The oil refinery’s future has been a hot topic, not just locally in Grangemouth, but for most of the UK political parties as its future will have a huge effect on Scotland. 

Last night the constituents and workers of Grangemouth got their chance to ask the candidates key questions concerning the plants' future – except one gentleman who emphatically stormed out as he wasn’t allowed to ask a follow-up question.  

“A fix,” he claimed, though I’m not sure many in the room knew what he meant by that remark. 

The evening was a rather fiery affair, mostly between the SNP candidate, former Ochil and South Perthshire MP John Nicolson (below), and Labour’s Brian Leishman, a councillor in Perth. 

(Image: PA)

Although the crowd played a huge part in the feisty atmosphere near the end as the floor opened to questions, there was plenty of jeering and applause from all political camps. 

Most notably the surprise of the evening was the subdued nature of the Tory representative, James Bundy, who was there in the absence of the constituency candidate Rachel Nunn

He sat back from the rest of the table, limp, and was rather self-aware of his party's failings when it came to Grangemouth. 

“If Rishi Sunak can pull off a miracle,” he started when answering a question about what the Tories would do if they were in Government come July 5.

Even more brazenly, he stated on two occasions he would defy the party whip to do what is needed for the refinery. 

Labour’s Leishman got the loudest jeering from the crowd as he failed to answer a question from one audience member.  

When tasked with answering a simple yes or no to “will GB Energy produce energy,” Leishman floundered around offering snappy phrases about a Green New Deal and £18 billion investments. 

Leishman was also tasked to explain how he would have “transparent” and “constructive” conversations with the site owners when he voted for the motion, put to Perth and Kinross council in February 2023 by Conservative Councillor Noah Khogali, to stop communication with the Chinese Communist Party. 

Foyer (below) has called for both the Scottish and UK Governments to have serious conversations with the owners of Grangemouth and has urged them to take immediate action to save the oil refinery.   

She said: “We need our own governments to be taking the needs of Grangemouth and the needs of this community seriously and actually the needs of our energy infrastructure here in Scotland.”

She added: “It really is about making sure that the site gets the proper level of investment so that we can extend the life of the site and then you'll be able to have a serious just transition.

“We all understand that times move on and that we need to look at new forms of energy, new ways for Grangemouth to work.

“But there is absolutely no point in us shipping and transporting in oil and gas from other parts of the world and you know, not refining the oil and gas we've got here now.

“We also need to be putting serious investment into finding other forms of energy waste for Grangemouth to work.

“We have a fantastically skilled workforce here.

“We have 100 years of track record here in this community and, you know, we need to see that the UK and Scottish governments being serious about how they're going to step in and save Grangemouth.

“We can't leave it down to a billionaire and the national government of a country on the other side of the world.”

Nicolson stated that conversations about saving the plant have happened behind closed doors. 

When pressed about these conversations, Nicolson refused to be drawn on any details but did say the First Minister, John Swinney, was “passionate” about Grangemouth’s future.  

The UK Government has backed a Petroineos project in Antwerp, Belgium, with around £600m, but has refused to step in to save Grangemouth. 

This fact was hammered through last night by Alba’s candidate and former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill who questioned why the Scottish Government is investing in overseas infrastructure but not in Scotland.  

A German-based energy group, REW, announced plans last month to build a new green hydrogen plant in Grangemouth on the site of the current petrol refinery station operated by Petroineos. 

READ MORE: Plans announced for green hydrogen plant on site of Grangemouth Ineos

The initial plans aim to have the site operational by 2029 but Derek Thomson, Unite Scottish secretary, has said it is not enough as hundreds of skilled workers are set to be out of a job in the near future.

He said: “This is the first test of a just transition and it is failing miserably, and this is the way that things are going to go.

“Then it's going to cause real scaremongering across the economy.

“It's going to make people not want to invest in Scotland if they can't protect jobs.

“That's why our campaign to work with Grangemouth and in oil and gas is so important just now that you cannot make sure make workers go into unemployment because of these things, there has to be safeguards in place.

“We recognise the importance of environmental issues, but we are so far away from removing oil and gas as a power source at this point in time and it's just not possible and we need that transition.”