UK announces help for struggling North Sea oil industry
Britain announced Thursday a £250 million (325 million euro, $350 million) package of funding to boost the oil industry in northeast Scotland, which has been hit hard by slumping prices.
At the same time, Prime Minister David Cameron is to visit the oil city of Aberdeen and meet industry bosses for talks on the current situation.
Global oil prices fell by more than 30 percent in 2015 and have dropped by another 20 percent this year amid increasing production and weaker demand.
In London, Brent North Sea crude for March, the European benchmark for crude oil, is currently at $33.10 a barrel, down from highs of over $100 in 2014.
"Oil and gas is a crucial sector not just for the northeast of Scotland but for the whole of the UK," Britain's Scottish Secretary David Mundell said, confirming the move.
"I know it's a very tough time for people who work in the industry and their families and I am determined the UK government will do what it can to support them."
The funding is expected to be used to help the oil and gas industry export its expertise globally as well as encouraging economic diversification in northeast Scotland.
It has been committed equally by the government in London and the devolved Scottish administration based in Edinburgh and led by the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP).
Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Cameron vowed that the falling oil price would not affect Scots thanks to the "broad shoulders of the United Kingdom".
But he warned that it would have been "a very, very dark day indeed" if prices had fallen this much and Scotland had voted for independence from Britain in a 2014 referendum.
Oil and gas production in Britain rose by over seven percent last year, the first increase in over 15 years, trade body Oil & Gas UK said this month.
But its chief executive Deidre Michie warned that "times are really tough" for the industry.
"We will continue to see job losses as we move into 2016," she added.
© 2016 AFP