A GROUP tasked with securing the future of industry in Grangemouth has met just once since the announcement around 400 jobs will be lost as a result of the town’s oil refinery closing, the Sunday National can reveal.

The Grangemouth Future Industry Board (GFIB) met on December 7, more than two weeks after news broke that Petroineos would axe Grangemouth’s oil refinery and convert it into a smaller oil import facility.

It has not met since, though the Scottish Government says the board will next convene on January 18.

GFIB is intended to provide a forum for organisations with a stake in the future of the town’s industrial sector to ensure Grangemouth “maintains and develops its competitiveness now and in our net-zero future”, according to the Scottish Government.

But critics have dismissed it as a talking shop and accused members – many of which are Scottish Government quangos – of “frittering away their time on nothing”.

The board has also failed to include trade unions since it was set up in 2020 – despite changing this being on its list of priorities for last year.

Unite, which represents workers at the Petroineos refinery, blasted the Scottish Government for “one of the worst cases of ticking the box exercises ever” and said GFIB had achieved “absolutely nothing concrete”.

The union also criticised the Scottish Government for failing to include the private sector, with GFIB being made up exclusively of public sector organisations.

Derek Thomson, Unite’s Scottish secretary said: "Unite has been at pains to point out that government ministers simply are not treating the situation at Petroineos with the urgency required in the interests of hundreds of workers, and national energy security.

The National: Grangemouth

“It is completely baffling as to why the Grangemouth Future Industry Board would be set up without Unite as the recognised trade union across the whole Grangemouth complex.

"There are also no private sector companies with an interest in energy production represented on the board, nor is there any involvement by the UK Government who are central to Unite's efforts in extending the lifespan of the oil refinery, and to the development of alternative energies including biofuels at the complex.”

READ MORE: Grangemouth boss tells MSPs it is not known when refinery will close

He pointed out that the board was intended to ensure “better responses to issues at Grangemouth” but added: “Absolutely nothing concrete has emerged from it before Petroineos' recent announcement to transition away from its oil refining operations, and certainly not one thing since.

“It really is one of the worst cases of ticking the box exercises ever set up by the Scottish Government and it's not worth the paper it is written on.”

Environmental consultant Richard Dixon, former director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said including trade unions on the board would have resulted in it having “come up with a plan for the future rather than meeting occasionally to gaze at its navel in a desultory fashion”.

He added: “Scotland needs recycling plants for plastics, batteries and wind turbine blades, as well as an electric arc furnace for making zero-carbon steel. 

“These are the kind of ideas the board should have been looking at for the future of Grangemouth instead of frittering away their time on nothing.”

The closure of the oil refinery was the subject of an adjournment debate last week led by East Lothian MP Kenny MacAskill (below).

The National: Kenny Macaskill

He said it would leave Scotland as just one of a handful of countries which produces its own oil but does not refine it within its own borders - if refineries in England and Wales are not counted. 

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, the Alba MP said: “We simply cannot have the absurdity of an oil-producing nation lacking a refinery capacity, never mind the perversity of the oil it produces being shipped across the seas for refining.”

Energy Security Minster Graham Stuart referred to the decision as a “commercial” one by the owner but said the UK Government would engage with the Scottish Government “through forums such as the Grangemouth Future Industry Board”.

The UK Government is not listed as a member of the board.

READ MORE: Hopes pinned on green future for Grangemouth to save 400 at-risk jobs

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is considering at pace, every option to support the site and the workforce of Grangemouth.

“This will involve union, industry and worker participation in the board and the just transition plan.

“We are committed to working with industry and the UK Government to secure a long-term sustainable future for Grangemouth and those who live and work there.

“It has always been the intention to evolve the board to include representation from unions, industry and the community who will be at the heart of developing a just transition plan for Grangemouth.

“We expect that the board will agree upon a new structure and set of priorities for publication in 2024.

“During 2023, the priorities of the board were to develop a just transition vision for Grangemouth and look to evolve the board to include representation from industry, unions and the community.”