THE fate of the Grangemouth oil refinery has been sealed after ministers agreed to support its "transition" following a crunch meeting on the site's future.

Speaking after a meeting involving refinery owners Petroineos, Unite and both Scottish and UK Government ministers, Energy Secretary Neil Gray said all present had agreed to support Grangemouth workers as the refinery wound down operations.

It was announced late last year that the refinery would be closed – potentially as early as spring 2025 – and the site repurposed as an import hub for finished fuel products.

Earlier this week, Energy Minister Graham Stuart ruled out a Westminster bail-out for the site, claiming it would not be “a sensible use of taxpayers' money”.

This could result in the loss of around 400 jobs and it is expected this would have knock-on effects in the wider economy linked to the refinery.

Thursday’s meeting involved trade unionists and the owners of the business for the first time, after the Sunday National revealed the board set up to co-ordinate efforts to boost industry in the town had excluded them from past meetings.

After we revealed the concerns of Unite – which represents workers at the Grangemouth refinery – that a Scottish Government-led group called the Grangemouth Future Industry Board had achieved “nothing” since it was set up in 2020, the Energy Secretary convened a new forum to oversee its work.

The new Industrial Just Transition Leadership Forum discussed how to “support the workforce”, according to Gray (below).

The National:

He said: “The first meeting of the Industrial Just Transition Leadership Forum was a constructive discussion focused on both the short and long-term future of the Grangemouth industrial cluster, its workforces and the important role it plays in supporting the local community and economy.

READ MORE: Grangemouth industry board slammed over inactivity

“Our discussions today, rightly, focused on the recent announcement by Petroineos and the important role that all partners can play to support the workforce at this time.”

But Gray went on to confirm that the oil refinery – the last of its kind in Scotland – would close as the site “transitions”.

“Given the significance of the Grangemouth industrial cluster to Scotland’s economy and the crucial role it will play in our just transition to net zero, it is to be welcomed that this group of key stakeholders has committed to work collaboratively to support the refinery business and its workforce as it transitions,” he said.

Scotland Office Minister John Lamont was also present at the meeting and told The National: "The UK and Scottish governments and partners will continue to work together looking at the long-term future of the Grangemouth site and ensure the employees are supported through this transition."

According to research from the Alba Party earlier this year, it will leave Scotland as one of just a handful of nations which produces oil but does not refine it within its borders.

Outlining his vision for a future independent Scotland’s industrial policy last week, First Minister Humza Yousaf said oil revenues would form part of the SNP’s spending plans for a decade after independence.

Unite made calls before the meeting for the life of the refinery to be extended, and for new purposes for the site to be explored to keep employees there in work.

The National: Grangemouth

Derek Thomson, Unite’s Scottish secretary, said: “Unite has repeatedly pointed out that the Grangemouth Future Industry Board was not fit for purpose.

READ MORE: Grangemouth rescue would not be ‘sensible use of taxpayers’ money’

“We demanded wider participation involving the UK and Scottish governments and Unite as the voice of the workers at the Petroineos oil refinery.

“We see this as a positive development, but we are crystal clear that the forum can't be a talking shop.

“It urgently needs to bring forward proposals which could extend the lifespan of the oil refinery and see new alternative energy products including biofuels being developed at the complex.

“Our priority is to protect the hundreds of jobs at the oil refinery and Unite will continue to lead this fight.”

Labour MSP Richard Leonard, who represents the Central Scotland region, urged ministers not to treat the refinery's closure as an "inevitability". 

He said: "I am deeply concerned about the threatened closure of the refinery.

"I do not believe there is an inevitability to it and it should not be seen as a done deal by the Cabinet Secretary or by anyone.

"This is a strategic national asset – people should not shrug their shoulders and say this can be simply replaced by an oil and gas import terminal."

A Petroineos spokesman said: “We were pleased to participate in the Grangemouth Future Industry Board meeting, which was an opportunity to engage simultaneously with both UK and Scottish governments and other key stakeholders.

"Grangemouth benefits from access to first-class logistics, utilities and a skilled workforce and Petroineos is committed to considering the full range of low-carbon options for the site.”

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said: “We know this is a concerning time for workers and their families, and are working closely with Grangemouth refinery on the long-term future of the site and how they are supporting staff."