The Scottish Government has said it wants to see the oil refinery at Grangemouth continue operating “as long as possible”, following news that its owners may shut it down in 2025.
Energy secretary Neil Gray vowed the Scottish Government would support workers at the major industrial site in central Scotland, saying he recognised the “anxiety” and “despair” they may be feeling.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that Petroineos planned to transition the site into being solely an import terminal, something which could have consequences for hundreds of jobs.
Updating MSPs on Thursday, Gray said the Government understood that a final decision had not yet been made.
He said: “It’s my understanding that this is not a decision at this point to close the refinery, but to start the necessary preparations to have the potential to transition Grangemouth to an import terminal.”
Petroineos’ decision was due to “global factors”, he said, rather than anything either the UK or Scottish governments had done.
Gray said he had written to the UK’s energy security secretary, Claire Coutinho, to seek talks on the matter.
Falkirk East MSP Michelle Thomson said Grangemouth “already struggles with high levels of social deprivation, and the ultimate closure potentially will be felt acutely in the town”.
Gray responded: “We absolutely recognise the uncertainty, the anxiety, the feeling of despair that this announcement will place on a range of people.
“I give my assurance to work collaboratively with all partners to ensure that any impact of this and subsequent decisions are mitigated as far as we possibly can.”
A just transition plan will be published for Grangemouth in the spring, he said, adding that he had met trade unions.
Gray said the Government wanted to see the site continue operating as a source for domestic fuels for “years to come”.
He said: “I’ve been clear in the letter (to the UK Government) that it remains my firm preference that the refinery should continue operating for as long as possible.
“And we’ll continue to engage proactively with Petroineos as we develop our just transition plans for Grangemouth.”
Scottish Tory energy spokesman Douglas Lumsden accused the Scottish Government of setting out to “demonise” the oil and gas industry, adding: “They, along with Labour, are against new production in the North Sea and would prefer we rely on imports.
“The SNP have accepted the Greens into government, who want to shut down the industry and the First Minister said two months ago he wanted to end Scotland’s role as the oil and gas capital of Europe.”
Gray said he was “very sorry” that the Tory MSP had “chosen to take that particular tone”, adding that Petroineos had said the announcement was nothing to do with decisions by governments at Westminster or Holyrood.
Alba Party Holyrood leader Ash Regan asked if the Scottish Government would consider stepping in to support the site.
Gray said his Government was “looking at everything that we possibly can do”, but added that it was “important to not be too alarmist in the narrative that we’re putting forward here”.
Earlier, an expert advisory group said the decision to cease operations at Scotland’s only oil refinery runs “directly counter to a just transition to a low carbon economy”.
Scotland’s Just Transition Commission said it is “deeply concerned that we will see a repeat of previous unmanaged industrial transitions in coal and steel whose harmful effects are still felt by communities across the country”.
Around 500 permanent staff work at the refinery and the owners believe around 100 would be needed to operate an import terminal.
Petroineos did not wish to comment.
The UK Government has been approached for comment.
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