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SNP tidal energy hopeful wants to 'maximise' Shetland oil and gas extraction

A Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate and tidal energy expert said he wants Shetland to “maximise” the island’s oil and gas extraction.

Tom Wills, who is running in the upcoming Shetland by-election, is a project manager with tidal firm Nova Innovation, currently on a leave of absence.

He has worked on a number of renewable energy projects in the north of Scotland, including the Oyster 1 and 800 wave energy projects and the Shetland tidal array at Bluemull Sound.

Mr Wills was selected by the SNP to contest the by-election ahead of Aberdonian Fergus Mutch, the party’s communications head at Holyrood.

Despite his renewable energy background, he said that with big oil finds springing up in the east and west of Shetland regions, he wanted the islands to get the most out of the new oil and gas reserves.

He said: “As long as oil and gas extraction is continuing then I want to see the benefits to Shetland maximised.”

But Mr Wills added that he was “saddened” by the way oil firm EnQuest had handled the recent announcement of job losses at the firm.

The firm will let go 80 staff at Shetland’s Sullom Voe Terminal by the end of 2019.

Mr Wills said: “Employers like that have a responsibility not to spring these announcements on their workforce.

“If they can see it coming then they need to start the conversation as soon as possible.

“We need to have a just transition, which involves retraining people and talking about what is coming next and we need to be retraining Scottish workers to work in the energy industries of the future.”

EnQuest responded by referring to their original statement, which described the job losses as “essential” if the firm was to “make the terminal competitive and retain and win new business”.

It said it offered voluntary redundancies to “minimise the risk of compulsory redundancies”.

Mr Wills said he will bring a wealth of local political knowledge to the role if elected, and that he has also built up policy experience from working with the energy ministry in Chile

He said: “I’ve been immersed in Shetland politics from a very young age.

“I also come from a political family and I’ve been following politics my entire life.”

Asked how his life might change, he added: “I would be very sad if I had to leave Nova because they’re doing great things but I’m excited about the impact I could have on renewable energy in Shetland and Scotland, was I to be elected in this by-election.”

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