Vote of confidence for North Sea

The Scottish public backs the awarding of new North Sea oil and gas licences by more than a two to one majority, according to a new poll published today by advisory firm True North.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited the North East of Scotland to make the announcement last month, in a drive to slow decline in domestic production of oil and gas during the UK’s transition to net zero.

More than half of respondents to the True North poll (54 percent), which was conducted by Survation, agreed that the UK government was right to grant new oil and gas licenses, compared to just 23 percent who believed this was the wrong decision.

In other findings, the survey pointed to a pragmatic rationale behind support for new licences with 75 percent of Scots agreeing that the UK should aim to meet its demand for oil and gas from domestic production as opposed to importing hydrocarbons from overseas.

In a rebuke to politicians who have sought to demonise the energy industry of late, four times as many people see the North Sea sector as having a positive impact upon the UK economy versus just under 14 percent who consider it a negative influence.

Three out of every five people surveyed were unconvinced that the UK government’s Energy Profits Levy, or ‘windfall tax’ on oil and gas profits, was proving an effective tool in either reducing their household bills or in driving energy firms to diversify their business from hydrocarbons towards renewable generation.

The latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures published last week showed that Scotland’s share of oil and gas revenues rose to a record £9.4 billion in 2022/23, on account of receipts from the windfall tax.

Commenting on the findings, True North Managing Partner Fergus Mutch said: “In a series of polls commissioned by True North over the past year, we’ve looked closely how the UK’s energy sector is perceived by the public at large and whether this tallies with some of the policy positions adopted by government.

“Overall, the Scottish public see our energy sector as an economic force for good and they want North Sea reserves used while we still need oil and gas as part of the mix while we transition to greener sources of energy.

“By utilising those resources at hand we can ensure that the jobs and economic benefits are realised here in the UK and avoid the cliff-edge scenario of investment and critical skills being lost to overseas.

“The recent announcement of new oil and gas licences gives industry more clarity and grounds for confidence — and this True North poll puts public opinion across Scotland squarely behind such an approach.

“Nobody is in any doubt about the scale of the challenge in reaching net zero and the effort that must go into decarbonising energy to tackle climate change. That task will require both focus and finance in close partnership between industry and government.

“But the protection and creation of jobs and need to ensure Scotland’s world-class energy leads that global energy revolution means we must manage that transition carefully.

“The Energy Profits Levy, or so-called ‘windfall tax’, is another barrier to unlocking the critical investment in energy that is required. While it might, in principle, have popular appeal our study shows that people are unconvinced of its impact in lowering the burden of household bills or in driving firms to invest in renewables.”

Fergus Mutch

Managing Partner

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