Activists fear millions of dollars in Just Transition funding is going to the wrong efforts

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ENVIRONMENT campaigners have raised concerns that millions of pounds from the Scottish Government’s Just Transition Fund have been awarded to an oil tycoon, controversial projects and a backed private sector group by the fossil fuel industry.

Taxpayer-funded grants from the Just Transition Fund (JTF) include £5million awarded to an organization chaired by oil tycoon Sir Ian Wood and £2million to the Net Zero Technology Centre, which is supported by oil companies such as Shell and BP.

A further £14million has been awarded for a ‘contentious project which will destroy a vital community park’, says Friends of the Earth Scotland, which argues the JTF should directly benefit workers and communities and not just the private sector.

The Scottish Government said the £500million fund – a decade-long initiative – is designed to help communities in the North East and Moray, and support projects that help the region’s transition to the net zero. The government said it had “extensively engaged” with workers, unions, communities, businesses and local authorities in the region.

At the recent SNP conference in Aberdeen, Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced £50 million in prize money for 22 JTF projects.

More than £14million will go towards the Energy Transition Zone (ETZ), which local residents in Torry, Aberdeen, have opposed, where St Fittick Community Park will be destroyed to make way for the scheme. Activists argue that alternative sites should be considered.

The ETZ is a site-building plan for the development, production, assembly, storage and distribution of energy infrastructure, in the hope that it will encourage ‘green’

upcoming businesses in the area.

ETZ funders include Opportunity North East (ONE) – a ‘private development sector catalyst’ group chaired by Sir Ian Wood, which received £5m from the JTF. ETZ has received £53m in public funding from the UK and Scottish governments and £5.7m from ONE.

Those voicing their opposition to the ETZ include Ishbel Shand, a member of the Friends of St Fittick’s Park campaign. She referred to the Prime Minister’s speech at the conference, when Sturgeon condemned the UK government for “massive subsidies to the wealthy at the expense of everyone else”.

Shand told The Ferret: ‘Yet the same Scottish government has just handed over almost £20m from the Just Transition Fund to an oil billionaire’s pet projects, on top of the more than £50m that he has already received Scottish ministers and the British government. All that public money to industrialise a lovely little park – the last accessible place for one of the city’s most deprived areas – in pursuit of fantastic employment figures and a dream of making Aberdeen the “capital net zero of the world”. ”

Shand added: “Local doctors lamented the plan to trash the park, the local community rejected it and the media was scathing.

“One can only assume that the government, having backed a white elephant, is determined to feed it bullets of public money in the hope that all will work out, when the foreseeable outcome is much more likely to happen. ‘be large amounts of elephant dung’.

Another JTF-funded project is the Net Zero Technology Center (the Centre) which will receive £2.1 million for research and development of what Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES) described as “controversial solutions based on nature and inefficient green hydrogen”.

The Centre, formerly known as the Oil and Gas Technology Centre, was established to support the oil and gas industry and lists major oil companies as partners on its website. Among them are the oil giants Chevron, BP and Shell. FoES argues that green hydrogen is an “expensive and inefficient use” of renewable energy.

£100,000 will go to the NESS Energy Project to study the feasibility of upgrading carbon capture and storage in incinerators. NESS is a waste-to-energy facility to process non-recyclable waste, supported by the councils of Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray.

According to FoES, however, the Scottish Government has commissioned an independent review of how to reduce climate pollution from the waste management sector, so it is “prejudging the outcome of that review” by paying money to determine whether the capture carbon can be applied. to an incinerator. Anything that supports incineration risks, FoES argued, further locks Scotland into burning waste rather than reusing or recycling it.

The environmental group also claimed that the Scottish Government had not provided information on the criteria used to determine the successful candidates, nor on the safeguards in place to ensure that workers and the community would benefit in return for public money. .

FoES Just Transition campaigner Ryan Morrison told The Ferret: “A just transition is about workers and communities, but millions of pounds from this fund go to private sector-led business groups. There is no mention of how ministers will ensure that this £50m creates positive outcomes for workers and communities or helps shape this transition.

“There are serious questions to be asked whether the fund will not directly benefit workers and communities – and how is the Scottish Government ensuring that it will actually protect livelihoods and improve lives?

“Communities in Torry are actively fighting back against Ian Wood’s energy transition zone plans, which would see their local park sacrificed in pursuit of profit.

“The Scottish Government cannot throw money at oil tycoons to override the wishes of local people and brand it a just transition.

“Smaller sums of money are made available for exciting community and worker-led projects like North East Rail. If this fund is to have a lasting effect on driving a worker- and community-led transition, future allocations must get money into people’s hands to shape a zero-carbon future, rather than becoming another prize pool for private sector-led business groups.

A Scottish government spokesperson said its aim in the first year of the project was to ensure workers and communities benefit from investments by “supporting a skills passport for offshore energy workers, transforming the way workers can move between sectors”.

This support, the spokesperson argued, would benefit workers currently employed in oil and gas to “capitalize on employment opportunities” presented by the transition to net zero.

“We are also investing in research, pilot projects and skills centers that will help universities, colleges and businesses equip workers with the skills needed for a successful transition away from fossil fuels,” the spokesperson said.

They added: “We are funding a pilot project exploring participatory democracy in the region, including through climate assemblies. Funding of £1million a year, for the duration of this Parliament, has been earmarked for participatory budgeting – which will allow communities to directly support local projects – and another £1million earmarked for the first year supporting social enterprises in the region. ”

JENNIFER Craw, chief executive of ONE, said the region had a “clear economic vision supported by effective public-private partnerships”.

She added: “Through ONE, the industry co-creates, develops, co-invests and delivers impactful projects in key sectors with regional and national partners. Investing in the North East of Scotland will provide long-term returns through sustainable business growth, increased productivity and high-value green jobs.

ETZ chief executive Maggie McGinlay said the JTF is “hugely welcome” and that its successful projects will “accelerate its ambition to reposition the North East of Scotland as a globally recognized net zero energy cluster”.

She added that it is “of the utmost importance” to equip people with the skills to take advantage of the “vast opportunities that the energy transition will bring” and this is “particularly the case in offshore wind, capture, utilization and utilization of hydrogen and carbon”. storage where we will see a significant increase in activity” over the next few years.

Aberdeen City Council did not respond to our request for comment.

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