- 5 Mar 2020
Attendees and apologies
- Professor Jim Skea (Chair)
- Lang Banks, representing WWF Scotland
- Colette Cohen
- Professor Mike Danson
- Charlotte Hartley, representing 2050 Climate Group
- Norrie Kerr
- Rachel McEwen
- Dave Moxham, representing STUC
- Kate Rowell
- Tom Shields
- Professor Karen Turner
For agenda item 2 only:
- Douglas Duff, Falkirk Council
- John Hand, Scottish Enterprise
- Allan McQuade, Scottish Enterprise
- Jennifer Tempany, Forth Valley College
For agenda item 4 only:
- Dr Richard Leese, Mineral Products Association
- Mike Smith, NECCUS
- Richard Wooley, Chemical Industries Association
- Gregor Auld, Scottish Government
- Colin Seditas, Scottish Government
Items and actions
Welcome and overview of the agenda
Professor Jim Skea welcomed everyone to the meeting. The meeting started with the secretariat providing an update on progress against actions from the previous meeting. It was confirmed that all outstanding actions were in hand.
The visit the day previous to Grangemouth was then discussed. It was agreed this had been helpful in understanding how the industrial cluster linked together and, in particular, its relationship with the local community.
The Commission discussed topics and questions they wished to raise in advance of the first information gathering session.
Information gathering session 1 – place
The Chair welcomed guests to the session and started the questioning.
The group began by exploring the Falkirk and Grangemouth investment zone proposals. These proposals formed the basis of the ask from the council to UK and Scottish Government as part of a Regional Growth Deal, yet to be agreed.
The Commission started by questioning to what extent the proposals were consistent with the net-zero target. This represented a step change from previous ambition and it was felt that the investment zone proposals all either directly or indirectly supported emissions reduction. For example, some support was targeted at attracting innovative business to Grangemouth, while infrastructure investments were planned in the hope that this would be the building block for further low-carbon investment. There were said to be significant opportunities in attracting new innovative businesses in fields like biotech and carbon usage to the region in future.
Investments made in infrastructure for industry were said to also benefit the local community. While the area had a significant commuting population, the industrial cluster still drew heavily on the Falkirk area for its workforce. The shift in Scottish Enterprise’s strategic framework, away from numbers of jobs to more focus on fair work and place-making was also noted as potentially being helpful in making sure community benefited from public support. Specific investments would also directly support inclusive growth, such as plans for heat network infrastructure. There as potential for this given the close proximity between the community and industry, but challenges were noted in relation to finance, population density and regulation.
At a time when many industrial sites across the country were scaling back, the college was increasing its apprentice intake, and a key strength of the region was said to be the experience and knowledge of the workforce. Funding available via the Flexible Workforce Fund had greatly helped engagement with industry, though there remained a lack of clarity regarding where responsibility for retraining or upskilling should lie. Experience had often shown industry reluctant to invest in its own workforce when funding from public sources were not available. While there was confidence in the capability of the local skills system to support any workforce transition, it was noted that the question of funding would have to be resolved.
The scale of the challenge posed by decarbonisation for carbon-intense regions was then discussed. There was a feeling that the Growth Deal should be part of a wider system of support to help carbon-intense regions decarbonise and that the scale of challenge could not be met by a one-off pot of money. Give the importance of the industrial cluster to the national economy, there was agreement that more collaborative work between local and national Government would be needed. Recognising this, the council had already made efforts to create links with work on CCUS already happening across the country.
The Chair finished the session by thanking the guests for their contributions.
Wrap up of information gathering session one preparation for session two
The Commission discussed the evidence they had heard in the previous session. It was agreed the session had been helpful in allowing for examination of support available to the local authority to facilitate a transition in their area.
There was then discussion about the upcoming session with guests from industry, and consideration of the written evidence submitted in advance.
Information gathering session two
The Chair welcomed guests to the session and began the discussion. Professor Martin Tangney of Celtic Renewables had sent his apologies. Tom Shields declared his interest as a Director of NECCUS.
The conversation started with discussion of the level of recognition within industry for the net-zero target, and the extent to which there were preparations in place for it. There was recognition that this represented a step change in ambition and there was said to be a willingness from industry to make their contribution. However, it was acknowledged that industry still had to fully work through the implications. A key issue was said to be how the transition would be paid for, and a belief from industry that decarbonisation rested at least in part on actions outwith their control. There was also a concern that decarbonisation could threaten international competitiveness should requirement for action in Scotland outpace that of other countries. There needed to be an awareness in government not only of domestic emissions but also consumption emissions so that jobs and emissions were not offshored to meet targets.
There were said to be numerous opportunities for Scotland to benefit from industrial decarbonisation. The vast potential of offshore wind was said to present opportunities for the production of green hydrogen, with the possibility of paying operators to produce this rather subsidising them not to produce when there is an excess of supply. In terms of Grangemouth, the ability to link into mothballed infrastructure along with the skills of the current workforce were said to present a clear advantage for the development of CCUS. For the minerals industry there was said to be opportunities to engage with the wider supply chain around decarbonisation, rather than focusing only on point-source emissions (such as low carbon solutions for buildings where difficult to manage emissions reductions can be achieved on a large scale).
It was felt there was a risk that the pace of emissions reductions in future could be limited, in part, due to a lack of sufficient funding from Government. Projects that were ready to go were on hold due to uncertainty over whether they would be funded. Beyond funding, joined-up policy was said to be important to support industry decarbonisation. Some examples offered included using transport policy to incentivise hydrogen as a fuel and so create demand for the hydrogen economy, and using procurement to incentivise the take up of locally produced lowcarbon products, such as cement and concrete, within constraints of state aid rules.
The session finished with the Chair thanking guests for their contributions.
Review of information gathering sessions and stock-take
The Commission discussed the evidence they had heard earlier in the day. It was agreed that both sessions had been productive and given a good overview of the opportunities and challenges facing both the region and energy intensive industries in general.
There was then further discussion regarding the interim report. The secretariat had drafted a paper proposing questions to form the basis of a call for evidence. This was agreed and broadly supported by the Commission, with some alterations.
A paper was also presented by the secretariat asking for agreement on research priorities. It was agreed that the first proposal in the paper should be progressed as a priority, with further consideration of the food and drink sector at a later date.
Discussing the timeline for producing the interim report, there was a request for the secretariat to arrange another conference call to discuss the report, once an updated draft had been circulated.
Action point 1: secretariat to draft updated questions for call for evidence
Action point 2: secretariat to progress research
Action point 3: secretariat to arrange conference call after draft interim report had been shared