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Coastal Communities

Volume 708: debated on Wednesday 2 February 2022

Communities across Scotland have benefited and will continue to benefit from our focus on levelling up. Particularly for coastal communities we are investing a further £100 million over the next three years for transformative seafood projects that will help to rejuvenate our coastal communities.

The petrochemical and oil and gas industries are vital to coastal communities across our United Kingdom, in Teesside and in Scotland. Will the Minister confirm that this Government are committed to supporting our petchem sector and further oil and gas exploration in the North sea, which will inevitably help us achieve net zero, not hinder it?

Yes, I can. The Government are committed to delivering a North sea transition deal, which will be a global exemplar of how a Government can work with the offshore oil and gas industry in partnership to achieve a managed energy transition. This deal between the UK Government and the oil and gas industry will support workers, businesses and the supply chain through this transition by harnessing the industry’s existing capabilities, infrastructure and private investment potential.

This Government’s multimillion-pound investment in the fishing industry will benefit coastal communities right across the UK, from Cornwall to Scotland. Does my hon. Friend agree that only by boosting coastal communities and spreading opportunity to every corner of our country can we succeed in our mission to improve the lives of everybody in our great nation?

Indeed I do. The Government have gone well beyond their manifesto commitment to replace European Union funding, by investing an additional £100 million over the next three years for these transformative seafood projects that will rejuvenate the industry and our coastal communities. Levelling up is about helping communities across the UK, and that means building back better, spreading opportunity, improving public services and helping to restore and celebrate pride in our coastal communities.

The world-leading European Marine Energy Centre in Stromness was developed as a consequence of access to EU Interreg funding, money to which we no longer have access. Does the Minister agree that the UK’s shared prosperity fund should be the source of replacement funding for organisations such as EMEC that no longer have access to Interreg funding? What is the Scotland Office doing to make that case within government?

I had the pleasure of visiting Stromness last summer, when I saw for myself the huge potential that Orkney has to lead the country in renewable energy. I continue to speak to the leader of Orkney Islands Council to explore all the ways in which we can help to fund these exciting projects.

Many coastal communities, including in my constituency, benefit from improved coastal shipping. What actions has the Secretary of State taken to assist in introducing a direct ferry service from Scotland to critically important export markets in Europe?

I was pleased to reply to a debate that the hon. Gentleman and other colleagues spoke in a couple of weeks ago on exploring the potential for restoring the Rosyth to Zeebrugge link, which, for commercial reasons, ceased operating a few years ago. There are lots of potentials for reopening that. It is primarily a matter for the Scottish Government, but I am happy to work with him and his colleagues to explore all these opportunities.

The ScotWind allocation announced last week has the opportunity to create thousands of jobs in Scotland. The reality is that in its time in office the Scottish National party has created lots of highly-skilled jobs, but they are not in Scotland—they are in China, Poland, Portugal and elsewhere. The Scottish Government failed to put in place sufficient demands for local procurement as part of awarding the contract; it is particularly disappointing for coastal communities, who can see offshore wind turbines being installed but cannot see the jobs. What discussion has the Minister had with the Scottish Government about ensuring that the supply chain for ScotWind creates jobs in Scotland and across the UK?

I agree with the basic point the hon. Lady is making. Referring back to the answer I gave the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael), may I say that if we look at renewable energy as a whole, we see that there are enormous opportunities to develop that technology in Scotland, through our contracts for difference round, which is as big as all the other rounds put together? Huge investment is going in, in offshore wind and in tidal, and I will continue to explore every avenue to make sure that this country is able to secure the lion’s share of that industrial capacity.