Aberdeen: a City in Transition
Brilliant new film from Aberdeen Independence Movement (AIM). Follow them at @AIMAberdeen. Introduction by Siobhan Tolland – film by Theo Forbes …
An economic case for independence is not particularly easy to build. It should be, especially if we compare our strategies against those of Westminster. Even more so if we consider the resources that we have. We have great, rich abundant resources that we barely knew we had. We are resource-rich. We have 90% of the UK’s fresh, water. We have 90% of the UK’s oil, 70% of its fish. We also have 25% of Europe’s wind energy. The list is endless. And we are only just discovering it. It’s like sitting on a lumpy sofa all these years and suddenly discovering a couple of thousand quid down the back of it.
For Aberdeen, how we sustain ourselves economically is vital. Few within Scotland, and less within the UK even look at Aberdeen. It’s that city up north where all the oil is. But it’s a complex city and it’s a city with a perhaps the least certain future of all. For the last few years have made most of us realise that the end of oil is near. And that leaves Aberdeen in quite a bind.
It’s good we are looking away from fossil fuels. In ecological terms this is the right thing to do and there is broad consensus across Scotland that this must be done. But in a more immediate and personal “how do I get work, pay the mortgage and feed the kids?” term, it can feel less celebratory. And Aberdeen feels that anxiety.
And this really was what the documentary set out to do. How do we ensure Aberdeen survives this huge transition away from fossil fuels? How do we manage this and not leave our communities on the scrap heaps like the mining communities of the 1980s- memories that still haunt us as a nation. How do we assure people that their interests will be protected and not pushed by the wayside?
The documentary considers the UK’s track record in this respect, and its management of oil and gas more generally. Comparing this to Norway that makes the UK look haphazard at best and, at worst, utterly incompetent. If we look at how Norway has managed their oil we see that another strategy is possible. And another future suddenly appears on the horizon for Aberdeen.
Indeed, if we look at Norway more generally we see a broad consensus of situating people at the heart of political and economic changes: how that oil fund is used to prevent poverty appearing as the economy wavers, for instance. How it uses its savings for the economic rainy days, ensuring their communities do no suffer as a result. For Norway, this is just a common sense approach.
Importantly though, Norway looks to the future. They are transferring over to renewables to ensure their future economy still sustains high skilled high paid jobs. They are looking to change their economy in a way that protects people’s security. They are thinking and planning long-term.
The documentary intended to get people thinking about the different paths available to us in the future. And the General election result showed us, more clearly, that what these two paths are. Both futures create very different societies from the one we know today. And there is no compromise between these paths: no in between strategy that can allow us a bit of both. It really is one or the other. And, as difficult as that decision might be for some, we need to start thinking what society we want.
For Aberdeen, the documentary had to consider a balance of what might build a better economy and society for the communities living and working in the city. It became evidently clear that the Scottish parliament’s role in developing this transition into renewables echoes Norway much more than it does the UK model. The recent announcement that the Scottish Investment bank will focus on funding renewables echoes Norway’s shrewd planning. Their plan to earmark £1 Billion for the redevelopment of areas like Aberdeen in this transition follow’s Norway’s model of community protection.
What also becomes evidently clear, however, is that the UK doesn’t seem to have a plan at all. Sure, there were promises thrown out like sweeties during the election. But not a plan to back it up. In fact, renewable energy researchers have spoken about how the Scottish Government and the EU offer stability for the renewable sector against the instability of the UK. The planning, the push for a fair and smooth transition are the drivers for both the Scotland and the EU. The UK offers only instability.
For those who are not yet sure of independence within Aberdeen, then, it does come down to what society we now want. And whether the UK or Scottish approach fits that better. We wanted the documentary to set out these choices and give people the information to think these through and decide what path is best for them – and for Aberdeen.