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Tories accused of 'twiddling thumbs' on oil sector as SNP vows to fight for jobs

The SNP's depute leader has said he will "fight tooth and nail" to bring jobs back to the struggling oil and gas sector as he accused the Tories of having "twiddled their thumbs".

Angus Robertson hit out at the Conservatives' record in Government, saying they would rather "oversee the managed decline" of the North Sea than work to ensure the sector can "thrive over the long-term".

He was speaking as he unveiled four priorities aimed at boosting the sector which employed 450,000 people in the UK at its peak in 2014.

But the collapse in oil prices saw that total drop to 330,000 last year, according to industry body Oil and Gas UK.

The SNP is demanding the next UK government prioritises support for exploration in the North Sea, saying this will help ensure a "bright future" for the sector.

It wants loan guarantees to be made available, and for the industry to be a priority in the UK's Brexit negotiations.

In addition, the party wants new incentive schemes to be brought in to encourage oil and gas firms to diversify into renewable energy, claiming this will allow existing skills and expertise to be used in a way that will protect jobs for the future.

Mr Robertson said: " Scotland's oil and gas sector is emerging from the downturn, businesses are growing in confidence and people are getting back into work after a tough couple of years.

"Throughout that time, the SNP has sought to support those out of work to retrain in other sectors and we've invested in innovation. Meanwhile the Tories have twiddled their thumbs and made clear they would rather oversee the managed decline of the oil and gas sector than see it thrive over the long-term."

Speaking on a visit to ROVOP in Westhill, Aberdeenshire, a company which specialises in providing remotely operated underwater vehicles used by the sector, he added: " The SNP believes in the long-term success of our energy industry and it's essential that we maximise its potential.

"More support for exploration in Scottish waters is fundamental to ensure stable revenues and employment in the years ahead.

"The Tories have revealed they consider oil and gas jobs a low priority in Brexit negotiations - our demand is that Westminster starts taking the industry seriously.

"And today we're calling on the next UK government to explore incentives for oil and gas companies to diversify into clean energy to help future-proof businesses, utilise existing skills and protect jobs.

"Only by electing SNP MPs to Westminster next month can we keep a check on the Tories. We won't let them ignore Scotland's economy and key industries - we'll challenge them to invest and deliver for our energy sector."

His visit came after Theresa May confirmed the Tories will cap " rip off'' gas and electricity prices - saving families up to £100 a year - if they are returned to power on June 8.

The Prime Minister said 17 million households will benefit from the cap on poor value standard variable tariffs (SVTs) as part of her drive to stand up for ordinary working families.

But the Tories were accused of stealing former Labour leader Ed Miliband's plans for an energy price freeze when the plan was first trailed last month.

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