An SNP MSP has said there is “no crisis in jobs in the North Sea” as he insisted the oil industry is “booming”.
Dennis Robertson, MSP for Aberdeenshire West, was accused of “breath-taking complacency” with his remark during a debate in Holyrood on growing Scotland’s economy.
Labour leader Kezia Dugdale accused the SNP of ignoring the “jobs crisis in the North Sea”.
But Mr Robertson intervened, saying: “The member just mentioned a crisis in the jobs in the North Sea and oil.
“There is no crisis. We have just actually extracted more oil than ever before in the North Sea.
“We have the most skilled workforce in the North Sea and it is booming.”
Ms Dugdale responded, saying: “I think the member’s constituents will find that an absolutely astonishing remark, as will the 50,000 people directly employed in the oil industry in Aberdeen and the 50,000 indirectly related to it in the surrounding areas.
“That really, truly is an astonishing remark to start this year.”
Industry body Oil and Gas UK announced on Monday that 2015 saw the first rise in oil and gas production for over 15 years, but warned of further industry cuts.
More than 65,000 oil and gas jobs have been lost across the UK since the the value of Brent crude halved from a high of $110 a barrel in June 2014.
Oil and Gas UK reported: “We will continue to see job losses as we move into 2016 and we must be thoughtful and supportive of our colleagues and their families who are being made redundant or who are at risk of being made redundant.”
Liberal Democrat North East Scotland MSP Alison McInnes said: “While local people are looking to the Scottish Government to help protect jobs, SNP MSPs are telling us there is no crisis.
“This was a breath-taking display of complacency from the Government benches. I am not sure what Dennis Robertson did over the Christmas break but it is time that he and his colleagues got serious about giving people in the north east the support they deserve.
“We were warned last year that 65,000 oil and gas jobs have already been lost and contractors are predicting further redundancies. This is an employment crisis by any definition of the word.”
Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said: “Given he is an MSP from Aberdeenshire, Dennis Robertson’s comments are deeply alarming and show he is clearly out of touch with what has been going on in the oil and gas industry.
“His remarks are wildly inaccurate and offensive to those who rely on the oil industry for their jobs and livelihoods.”
An SNP spokesman said: “As a North East MSP Dennis Robertson understands how challenging current conditions are for those working in the oil and gas industry.
“However, this week’s news that North Sea oil production rose for the first time in over 15 years is encouraging for the sector and should be welcomed by all parties.
“Yesterday the SNP renewed its call to the UK Government to incentivise North Sea exploration to ensure a vibrant future for the industry. Labour should join us in this cause instead of playing politics over jobs.”