£12m SNP fund to retrain oil workers flops – only 91 users


THE SNP’s £12m project to retrain redundant oil and gas workers has helped fewer than 100 people, it has been revealed.

Earlier this year Nicola Sturgeon announced a flagship scheme to prepare workers from the struggling oil and gas sector to retrain for jobs elsewhere.

But now it has emerged that only one in four of those who have applied for the fund have been provided with cash.

In spite of tens of thousands of energy workers losing their jobs, only 91 have received any cash from the Skills Development Scotland (SDS) fund.

The shocking shortfall means that the project has come in at a cost of £130,000 per person.

And – the government has admitted – it has taken them three months to even set up a website for the project.

Credit: Berardo62, Flickr
Credit: Berardo62, Flickr

Conservative North East MP Ross Thomson branded the project a “poor return for an initiative that was launched with no small degree of fanfare.”

He added: “If there is £12m set aside, then it should go to those who need it.

“We received a number of complaints during the election campaign from professionals having difficulties accessing the fund or finding out more about what was on offer.

“The Scottish Conservatives welcome any initiative to offer alternative employment and support at a time when the region is struggling due to the downturn but people need to know about it.

“Many will wonder why it took three months to get a website up and running.

“We need to see this type of initiative working in the way it was intended, not just be a way of grabbing a positive headline for the SNP.”

Business, innovation and energy minister Paul Wheelhouse admitted that just 412 people had “been engaging with SDS” about the fund.

Meanwhile – he said – only 91 had received actual offers of financial support.

A spokesman for SDS said: “SDS has been assisting people wishing to access support since shortly after the fund was first announced, and the figures reflect the fact that people are at varying stages of the application process.

“Around 340 employment opportunities across Scotland will be created through training programmes, with around 100 individuals having already had their funding for training approved.”

The news comes at a time when further hard times have been forecast for the Scottish oil and gas sector, in the midst of an oil price slump.

Yesterday (MON) think tank the EY Scottish Item Club claimed that the economy would expand by just 1.2% in 2016 – risking a stall, partly as a result of the lower oil price.

And one in three oil and gas companies say they are planning more job cuts this year.

The news comes at a time when experts predict the sector could see 23,000 job losses by 2020.