It was an honour to attend the recent State Opening of Parliament and King Charles III's King's Speech – the first King’s Speech in more than seventy years.
The address outlined the UK Government's programme for; growing the economy; strengthening society; keeping people safe; and promoting our national interests.
As the UK continues increasing renewable, low carbon and sustainable sources of energy, we currently rely on oil and gas for 75% of our energy needs.
Even when we reach net zero by 2050, the Climate Change Committee estimates this will still be about 25%.
While the UK continues to develop and grow technologies like wind, solar, tidal, hydrogen and carbon capture, we cannot immediately abandon hydrocarbons.
I therefore welcomed the announcement of a new Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill which requires the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), to run an annual process inviting applications for new production licences in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).
Some argue against any new production licences and suggest just continuing with existing oil and gas wells.
But this ignores the fact that reservoirs naturally decline.
There are currently 284 active oil and gas fields in the North Sea and by 2030 around 180 will have ceased production due to natural decline.
And industry experts warn that, without fresh investment, the UK will be reliant on imports for – not 50% like today – but 80% by 2030!
And that imported fuel can have up to five times the carbon footprint.
New licences does not mean more production, just a slower decline and a more managed energy transition.
To see energy transition in action, one needs look no further than Peterhead Power Station over the last forty years.
Initially running on oil in the eighties, the station was running entirely on natural gas by the nineties.
In the 2000s, efficiency and emissions were improved further by the introduction of combined gas cycle compression.
The next stage for this vital source of power – the only dispatchable thermal power station in Scotland – is to connect with the Acorn carbon capture project at St Fergus, to become 95% emission free.
North East Scotland has long been a centre of excellence for energy and this will continue for decades to come as we deliver a successful energy transition.
Not ‘just’ to get to net zero, but to do so while keeping the lights on, the economy moving and developing the skills and experience needed here and right around the world.
It was finally confirmed last week that inflation was now less than half (4.6%) of when it peaked in recent years (11.1% in October 2022).
Actions taken by the Conservative UK Government avoided additional borrowing that would have fuelled further inflation.
And steps like the Energy Price Guarantee, and Cost of Living Payments helped ease the burden on households and businesses.
There is still work to do, but measures taken have made a real difference.
I joined local dignitaries and community groups in paying tribute at Remembrance events held across Aberdeenshire this past weekend.
In Banff, Turriff, Macduff and beyond, we honoured those lost serving our country.
We also remember their sacrifice today by building a society worthy of it.
Finally, I want to congratulate Enable Deveronside on recently being awarded the prestigious King’s Award for Voluntary Service.
Congratulations also to Banff and Macduff Men’s Shed for being named Scottish Men’s Shed of the Year.