Yousaf’s £70k UN climate week trip sparks backlash for alleged betrayal of North East oil and gas sector

First Minister Humza Yousaf

Humza Yousaf’s official visit to UN Climate Week in New York, from September 17-21, incurred a total expense of nearly £70,000, as disclosed by the Scottish Government.

THE costs breakdown includes £33,000 for accommodation, £26,000 for flights and US transport, £4,700 for meals, and £6,200 for the “First Minister car service.” Criticism was voiced by Scottish Conservative shadow secretary for net zero, energy, and transport, Douglas Lumsden, who remarked, “It seems no expense was spared sending Humza Yousaf and his entourage to grandstand in New York.”

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During a pivotal speech in New York, Yousaf outlined a transformative vision for Scotland, stating, “Scotland will transition from being the oil and gas capital of Europe to unleashing our renewable potential and becoming the net-zero capital of the world.” This declaration faced backlash from Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, who deemed it a “brutal and senseless betrayal of the North East.”

This perceived betrayal is underscored by the fact that the North East of Scotland has long been a crucial hub for the oil and gas industry, supporting tens of thousands of skilled jobs. Critics argue that a sudden shift away from oil and gas without a clear and robust transition plan could jeopardise the livelihoods of workers in the North East, fueling concerns about the economic impact on the region. The Scottish Government’s emphasis on renewables, while commendable for environmental reasons, raises questions about the potential consequences for those employed in the traditional energy sector in the North East.

Critics highlighted a shift from Yousaf’s earlier stance in Scotland, where he assured, “Our government will not abandon those in the oil and gas industry.” The Scottish Government clarified that four aides from Yousaf’s team and three civil servants from the ‘International Climate Change’ department joined the trip, along with two special advisors and one civil servant from the ‘US Hub’ in Washington DC.

The disclosure of costs, along with the outcomes of the visit, was made on the Scottish Government website on Thursday afternoon, coinciding with the conclusion of MSPs’ sessions for a two-week Christmas and Hogmanay recess.

In light of the disclosed expenses and the contentious shift in energy policy, Yousaf’s UN Climate Week trip continues to stir debate on the trade-offs between environmental aspirations and the economic stability of the North East’s oil and gas sector. As critics and proponents engage in a discourse on Scotland’s energy future, the outcomes of this visit raise critical questions about the strategies needed for a balanced transition and the potential repercussions for the livelihoods of those dependent on the traditional energy industry in the region.

The Scottish Government’s emphasis on renewables is laudable, but the challenge lies in navigating a path that ensures a just and sustainable transition for all stakeholders involved.

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