Politics: Transitioning away from fossil fuels is a complex situation
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I begin this first column of 2022 by wishing all readers of the Turriff Advertiser a Happy New Year.
I hope everyone had a nice festive break.
Covid-19 is sadly still with us but, due to the fantastic UK-wide vaccine and booster programme, we are in a far better place than this time last year – even with the arrival of the new Omicron variant.
At time of writing, positive cases are still rising but thankfully the mortality rate appears to be drastically lower and vaccinations are helping keep hospitalisations down.
So, the best advice for everyone, is still to get the vaccine and booster/third jabs when eligible.
Regular self-testing is also important – particularly when planning to meet with groups of people you don’t normally meet with.
We must all also follow Government guidelines and restrictions – although they are also slowly being relaxed.
Last week, I was glad to see the First Minister follow the science (and the UK Government) in reducing the isolation period from ten to seven days, as well as removing the need for a PCR test to confirm a positive lateral flow test.
A few days later, she followed the UK Government again to announce that people travelling to Scotland from abroad, who are fully vaccinated or under the age of 18, will no longer need to take pre-departure Covid-19 tests.
Passengers will also no longer be required to self-isolate on arrival awaiting a negative result.
This news will be particularly welcomed by those who work overseas in the oil and gas industry.
The oil and gas industry is a significant employer for many residents across Banff and Buchan, so I was dismayed to hear Labour’s plans for a windfall tax on the sector.
The oil and gas industry may seem like an easy target to those who do not appreciate, not only the contribution to jobs, livelihoods and the economy, but also the vast contribution the industry has already made to the UK’s energy transition efforts.
Put simply, we will not transition from oil and gas without oil and gas.
Not only will there be a continuing – albeit declining – demand for hydrocarbons for decades to come, these companies’ resources, skills, expertise and technology are also vital to drive forward the energy transition we need to get to our net zero objectives.
I would like to express my gratitude for the British Armed Forces who once again have stepped up to help civilian authorities deal with the pandemic.
The Armed Forces facilitated one of the largest logistics operations in 2020, helping with Covid-19 testing and vaccinations.
And members of all three services have again been called in recently to assist NHS Grampian with Covid related pressures.
As we saw in the aftermath of Storm Arwen, the Armed Forces are always available – right across the whole United Kingdom – to provide emergency support when called upon.
But that support must be a last resort and not seen as a permanent replacement for normal public and emergency services.
For example, our fantastic ambulance staff and paramedics continue to do a great job, but are under-resourced.
New figures show some residents waiting twice the target time for an ambulance in life threatening emergencies.
I continue to call on the Scottish Government to address the under-funding and under-resourcing of this invaluable service.