THE unjust transition happening in the North Sea – with workers sacrificed and our society and economy losing out – is now being replicated onshore.

Offshore, workers have been thrown overboard without a renewable life raft and the jobs that should be transforming our communities and skills for the renewable revolution going abroad.

Now it’s the same onshore, with local industries losing out and jobs threatened. As with oil and gas, what should be a bounty for the nation is seeing the benefits going elsewhere.

READ MORE: Environmental devastation cannot be the transition’s price

Let me explain. The biggest source of emissions is now transport. Great progress has been made with diesel engines and cutting emissions and pollution but it’s still not enough. There must be a transition from fossil fuel vehicles but it should be just and benefit our society and economy.

Electric vehicles are already here but for buses and other large vehicles there’s also hydrogen. Both are operating on our roads and increasing in number. That’s a good thing and should be welcomed. But it’s where the buses are built and bought that’s the concern.

As with offshore wind, where turbines, cabling or whatever other orders are going abroad, it’s happening on land and with buses where orders are going to China.

We were promised a Brexit Bonus, and it was even plastered on the side of a bus. But it wasn’t meant to be that the bus would be built in China and the benefit would go there. Yet that’s what’s happening.

The case was made in a parliamentary debate just before the election was called on the introduction of UK-made zero-emission buses.

I’m not normally politically aligned with the DUP. Both on the constitution and on many other issues, the divide is clear and stark. But on this issue, I’m at one with them and the case was made forcefully and analytically by Ian Paisley the MP for North Antrim.

He pointed out that “the UK is blessed with three major manufacturers – Alexander Dennis, Switch Mobility and Wrightbus – and each makes a significant contribution to the UK economy and to local employment”.

For him the important factory is Wrightbus in Ballymena, for Scotland it’s Alexander Dennis in Falkirk, with Switch Mobility in England. They all make a mix of electric and hydrogen buses offering options and choices not simply in size and chassis but engine technology. Their buses are already visible on our roads and have been for many years.

The work they provide is vital in the communities in which they’re located and the skills have been nurtured and are passed down through generations.

But what’s happening with bus orders as we transition to electric and hydrogen? In 2020 the UK Government promised 4000 “British-built buses” that were to be “cleaner, greener, quieter, safer and more frequent”.

As Paisley also went on to point out there are almost 40,000 buses on our road and only about 3000 are zero-emission so there’s work to be done but where? The reality he sadly narrated is that “the Zebra (Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas) 1 and 2 schemes pledged £312 million to fund the purchase of 2270 buses” but shamefully “46% of those 2270 buses will be manufactured outside the UK, principally by China”.

A very recent order from Transport for London for new low-emission buses has gone to China. The situation in Scotland is slightly better but it’s still not what it should be given our energy windfall.

This transition should be creating a virtuous circle from the renewable bounty that we’re blessed with on and especially offshore. The opportunity for access to not just cleaner but cheaper fuels is immense and we must take it.

I prefer hydrogen but others may opt for electric. Either works but in Scotland the former offers real opportunity. National Grid ESO, the electricity supply operator, says that 100% of the UKs green hydrogen will be produced in Scotland, at least initially. Moreover, other development is taking place.

Hydrogen production plants are being established. As the whisky industry seeks to decarbonise, hydrogen plants are being built and not just at distilleries. A maltings in my constituency is seeking to build one and there will be surplus energy that could be used for local transportation.

Similar action is being taken at Grangemouth where the chemical works are on their route to net zero and looking to install a hydrogen plant. It’s possible in future stages that surplus energy could provide for local transport.

All that should be offering cheap fuel, meaning lower cost transportation but it must also include being used in buses built here. Whether that’s at Alexander Dennis, just up the road from Grangemouth, or at the other factories, it must stay here.

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This isn’t just a slap in the face to the workers and manufacturers in this country, it jeopardises their very existence. And that in an area where they are already not only skilled but leading in the technology.

Any loss would not just be in orders but potentially of production in future years.

I welcome Chinese investment in Scotland and UK PetroChina has been vital to the Grangemouth Refinery and turbine manufacturing would be equally appreciated. But I don’t want our country flooded with cheap Chinese buses and at the expense of our indigenous manufacturing base.

Nor is the assembly of Chinese buses here acceptable. It’s retaining the high skills and cutting-edge technology that’s vital.

How absurd to take action to reduce emissions on our roads and yet massively increase them on the high seas. It’s environmental as well as economic nonsense. It’s suggested that Chinese buses are significantly cheaper. But how is that calculated? Is consideration given to the social and economic costs of factory closures? Or to the loss of skills and technology?

Our workers deserve this work, our communities need it and it’s economically and environmentally absurd to do otherwise.