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Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Point of Order, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Covid-19, Made Affirmative Procedure, Nationality and Borders Bill, Decision Time, OVO Energy (Redundancies)


Contents


OVO Energy (Redundancies)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-02948, in the name of Jim Fairlie, on redundancies at OVO Energy. The debate will be concluded without any question being put. I invite members who wish to participate to press their request-to-speak buttons now or as soon as possible, or to type R in the chat function if they are joining us remotely.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes with regret the reported decision by OVO Energy Ltd to seek 1,700 voluntary redundancies and the closure of various offices, including in Perth, which, it understands, the company could have used for its new training academy; notes the view that the reportedly “excellent team”; that the OVO Energy CEO, Stephen Fitzpatrick, referred to when acquiring SSE Energy Services deserves better treatment, including more clarity on what happens should the company not reach sufficient numbers of voluntary redundancies, and considers that this represents a disappointing betrayal of a hard-working, committed workforce.

17:28  

Jim Fairlie (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)

I thank members from all parties across the chamber—apart from yours, unfortunately, Presiding Officer—who have supported my motion, which refers to OVO Energy’s decision to seek 1,700 voluntary redundancies and the closure of various offices, including in Perth.

However, the story goes back much further than that, and it is important to take as a starting point an acknowledgement that my home town of Perth, and great swathes of Perthshire—admittedly, in John Swinney’s constituency of Perthshire North—have a long and proud history, dating back almost 80 years, of production and distribution of electricity that was clean and green long before its time. It is important that we acknowledge and respect the work of those pioneers who made it possible.

The North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board was formed under the Hydro-Electric Development (Scotland) Act 1943 to deliver electricity to the Highlands for the first time. Scores of hydro dams and power stations were built across the Highlands, tapping into the area’s uniquely positioned but challenging terrain.

It was no easy feat. In 1955, workers at St Fillans in my constituency set a world record for tunnelling, grinding their way through 557 feet of rock in just one week. By the mid-1960s, Scotland could boast of 56 dams connected by more than 600km of rock tunnel, aqueducts and pipelines.

All of that was achieved by men who came from all over the world into the tunnels. Scots, Poles, Czechs, Germans and a huge number of Irishmen—particularly the tunnel tigers from Donegal—came to live in the camps and work in the hydro schemes. Many of them stayed, and their descendants are still at the heart of communities in many parts of Scotland, including in Strathearn. My dad was one of the workers on the Loch Turret dam above Crieff, alongside my now-deceased Uncle Eddy.

The dismantling of Tom Johnston’s great legacy began with the privatisation of the electricity companies in 1990. However, the Perth connections remained, even when, in 1998, the private company Scottish and Southern Energy was formed and headquartered in my constituency.

SSE was the result of the merger of two former public sector electricity supply authorities. Scottish Hydro-Electric provided the “Scottish” part of the title, and the “Southern” part came from the former Southern Electricity Board, which distributed electricity in southern England—a distribution-only authority with no power generation capacity of its own. In effect, Perthshire was producing huge amounts of hydroelectricity for use across the whole United Kingdom. SSE was rapidly established as one of the big six energy suppliers in the UK market, employing almost 11,500 people across the country. Many of those jobs, and its HQ—the closure of which is now planned—were in my constituency.

In September 2019, SSE announced that it would sell its retail business to OVO Energy. The transaction was completed in January 2020, and 8,000 staff were transferred to OVO. Stephen Fitzpatrick, the chief executive and founder of OVO, declared:

“There is a lot of work to do to bring the two businesses together, but we have a really strong combination of great talent, technology and customer centricity that will enable us to succeed.”

Alistair Phillips-Davies, the chief executive of SSE, added:

“We are very pleased to have completed this transaction, which we firmly believe is the best outcome for the business, its customers and its employees.”

The Daily Record reported a spokesperson who said, at the time:

“We have a detailed integration plan that leaders from both companies have collaborated on since September and will share what we can, when we can. In the meantime, individuals and teams will continue to work as usual and nothing will change for the time being.”

That last phrase should have rung the warning bell, because OVO backtracked only four months later, and hundreds were laid off in May 2020. Less than two years later, we are told that hundreds more workers are set to lose their jobs, because OVO Energy’s Perth office, where around 700 people are employed, is going to be closed as it axes a quarter of its UK workforce. Was Alistair Phillips-Davies, the CEO of SSE, fooling himself or us when he said that he firmly believed that the £500 million deal was

“the best outcome for the business, its customers and the employees”?

During a meeting with SSE and OVO when the takeover was announced, my colleague Pete Wishart, member of Parliament for Perth and North Perthshire, was assured that there would be no job losses. Time and again, both companies—SSE and OVO—gave repeated assurances to staff across the country that no redundancies would happen, that jobs were safe, that customer service was a priority, and that the talented and committed workforce was at the heart of quality service delivery. Both companies have utterly betrayed that workforce.

When the redundancies were announced, Stephen Fitzpatrick said:

“There is never an easy time to announce redundancies and this is a particularly difficult decision to take. But like all businesses, we face a new reality and need to adapt quickly to enable us to better serve our customers and invest in a zero carbon future.”

I will come back to the phrase

“to better serve our customers”

in a minute. He also stated:

“We are seeing a rapid increase in customers using digital channels to engage with us, and in our experience, once customers start to engage differently they do not go back.”

That was the most telling sentence of all. All the market analysis at the time of the takeover talked about the digital capabilities of OVO. Digital capability means that there is less need for people, and customers are forced to deal with an app rather than a human. My guess is that redundancies were always the aim. Should we be surprised? Probably not.

OVO is letting down not only its workforce but its customers. It is clear that Stephen Fitzpatrick sees automation as the way forward, but we all know from our own experience that sometimes people just want to speak to a well-trained, well-informed human being who can help them with their issue, whatever it might be. That resource—that human quality, and the ability to talk to someone who can actually help—is being lost.

In taking over, Mr Fitzpatrick praised the “excellent team” that he was inheriting. He should use that team, as Perth would be the ideal location for OVO’s new training academy. Along with John Swinney and Pete Wishart, I am due to meet OVO management again soon, and I once again call on Stephen Fitzpatrick, as the owner of the business, to attend that meeting himself. His assurances were at the heart of the public relations campaign around the takeover, and he should give his employees direct answers about why he can no longer stand by those assurances.

Where will his automation of service leave the digitally excluded? Will those people—who are most likely to be the less well off in our society—be forced on to higher-priced tariffs because of that digital exclusion? Are the older generation, from whom I have had the most contact on the subject, to be left behind? I am being asked questions like, “I don’t know how to do all this app stuff, son. What’ll I do if I can’t pay my bill? Will they cut me off?”

The company is causing anxiety for customers and staff, and they all deserve answers. When we meet Mr Fitzpatrick and his management team, I will press him to rethink the decision and maintain—or indeed, improve—the quality of the service that OVO currently provides. The best way to achieve that is by ensuring that the dedicated, skilled workforce who, for decades, have done so well to serve my community and communities across the country, keep their jobs.

17:36  

Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

I congratulate Jim Fairlie on securing the debate and commend him on lodging his motion, which I was pleased to support. Like him, I have taken a close interest in the closure of the OVO Energy office in Perth and the impact that it will have on the wider economy.

OVO Energy currently employs approximately 700 people in Perth, and the loss of those jobs would be a huge blow to local families and to the wider Perthshire economy. OVO has said that 1,700 employees across the United Kingdom—up to a third of the company’s total workforce—are set to lose their jobs through voluntary redundancy. The number of offices across the UK will be reduced from 10 to three, and the only office left in Scotland will be located in Glasgow, which means the closure of offices not only in Perth but in Edinburgh, Cumbernauld and Dunfermline. The situation is causing real uncertainty for those who are unable or unwilling to relocate.

OVO has said that it is seeking to make those job losses through voluntary redundancy, but we do not yet know whether the job cuts could become compulsory if insufficient volunteers come forward. When my colleague Liz Smith and I recently met Adrian Letts, the retail chief executive officer of OVO Energy, we made that point forcibly to him. Unfortunately, no reassurances were received.

Mr Fairlie has given us a history lesson. He and I have something in common, because my father also worked on a hydro dam—the Glascarnoch dam—in the Highlands. It is worth setting the latest developments in a historical context, as Mr Fairlie did. I am old enough to remember when, back in the 1990s, the then newly privatised Scottish Hydro-Electric company moved its headquarters from the west end of Edinburgh to Perth. That was a major economic boost for the city and for the local economy, as it created more secure and better-paid management-level jobs.

Over the years, Scottish Hydro-Electric was a success story, as it expanded to take over Southern Electric and became SSE, as it is today. Nonetheless, with its headquarters still firmly in Perth and with an ever-expanding workforce, it is a vital part of the local economy. Two years ago, SSE took the decision to dispose of its retail arm to OVO Energy. It is important to stress, however, that SSE remains headquartered in Perth and committed to the city. Although it is no longer involved in the retail sale of energy, it is heavily invested in electricity generation, particularly in the field of renewables, and in electricity transmission. Those jobs are not affected by the latest announcements, and we hope that they will be with us in Perthshire for many years to come.

When OVO Energy acquired SSE’s retail arm, it said—as Jim Fairlie mentioned—that it was committed to a presence in Perth. It is deeply disappointing that, two years later, that promise has been broken, causing the uncertainty that we see today for the staff, many of whom have been loyal to both SSE and OVO over a long period.

I do not know whether it is realistic to expect OVO to revisit its decision to close the Perth office, but from my dealings with the company I think that it is unlikely. However, we need to make sure that we avoid compulsory redundancies for people who do not wish to take a voluntary package.

I have urged OVO to explore the possibility of allowing individuals who live in Perthshire to work from home, rather than have to relocate to an office in Glasgow, and OVO has pledged that it will look at that. That would at least provide some comfort and protection for people who do not wish to take voluntary redundancy at this time.

In the longer run, it is inevitable that we will see a decline in the number of energy retail jobs through natural wastage, which is to be deeply regretted. Some weeks ago, I raised in chamber the question of whether the Scottish Government should look at relocating more public sector jobs out of the central belt to Perth to support the local economy. I hope that that call would be widely supported by all local representatives, as it would undoubtedly be to the benefit of the Perthshire economy and help to replace the jobs that are being lost.

I close by putting on the record again my disappointment with the actions of OVO. I hope that we can see a brighter future for the staff who are currently very worried about the impact of the cuts.

Alex Rowley joins us remotely.

17:41  

Alex Rowley (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

I join Jim Fairlie in expressing my anger and sheer disappointment in OVO Energy Ltd and its chief executive officer, Stephen Fitzpatrick, for the false and broken promises that they have made to their workforce and to communities including those in Perth and Dunfermline in the region of Mid Scotland and Fife.

To say that there is real anger in those communities would be an understatement, but people keep asking what we can do. I would say there are many things we as a Parliament and both the UK and Scottish Governments can do when companies lie to their workforce, their clients and the communities in which they operate.

Unite the union is calling on members of Parliament to order Stephen Fitzpatrick back to Parliament to explain what seems like misinformation that he gave to MPs when he last appeared before them. The union says that OVO Energy must “open the books” and explain why £40 million in loans and payments have been made to other companies owned by Stephen Fitzpatrick before it makes 2,000 staff redundant. Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, said:

“Unite’s preliminary research shows there are a lot of questions that need answering about OVO’s accounts. At the very least there should not be a penny more of taxpayers’ money spent on OVO until they provide answers.”

Unite estimates that, in the past five years, the top directors of OVO have taken £4.6 million out of the company in salaries and benefits. The best paid director, who is not named in the accounts but is likely to be Stephen Fitzpatrick, earned almost half of that figure. They want to take people’s jobs away, but we have a right, as do the unions, to demand that they open up OVO’s books to scrutiny. Both Governments must do all that they can to make that happen.

I also want to put on the record the words of Unite’s national officer for energy, Simon Coop, who said:

“We warned the directors about blundering into the SSE takeover. In recent years the same directors have plundered the accounts for amounts estimated to be touching £5 million. So, the company must be subject to severe scrutiny before the union decides on our next moves, but if they move to compulsory redundancies they will be fully opposed by the union.”

There are serious questions to be asked and answered about and by OVO, but we must also ask what happened to the public energy company that voters in Scotland were promised. More than anything, I think that OVO Energy’s deceit will encourage much greater public support for public control and ownership of energy.

As Scottish Trades Union Congress general secretary Roz Foyer said:

“Workers were promised the Saudi Arabia of renewables, but all they got was a desert.”

Energy costs are spiralling out of control, and workers and communities across Scotland are getting a raw deal. The time to take control of energy is now.

The company must think twice. It must not move towards compulsory redundancies.

The bigger message is that the people of Scotland, through the Government of Scotland, must take control of energy in Scotland.

Mark Ruskell joins us remotely.

17:45  

Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

I thank Jim Fairlie for securing today’s timely members’ business debate.

We have heard that, in the recent round of job losses, OVO Energy announced that it will axe 1,700 jobs across its UK operations. That is a quarter of the company’s workforce. It will mean closing seven out of 10 offices. An estimated 700 staff are at risk in Perth alone, and a quarter of those staff are earmarked for OVO’s voluntary redundancy scheme. Those are the numbers. Behind the numbers are real people and families, who have ties to their communities, with children at school, friends and neighbours, and families that support and care for one another in the community.

Jim Fairlie spelled out how the roots of the energy business in Perth run deep—all the way back to SSE and the hydro board—and are built on the lives of generations of real people. The workers should not be seen as mere numbers on a spreadsheet to be redeployed at will across the UK.

After several meetings with the chief executive of OVO and contact with the unions, I, like many members, remain deeply concerned about the lack of clarity on the next steps in the redeployment and retraining that are to be offered to staff and on whether compulsory redundancies could still be considered after the voluntary redundancy process concludes. Once again, OVO has left its staff in the dark, without clarity on the next steps, putting them under pressure to make serious decisions about the future of their careers and families in a matter of days.

The deadline for voluntary redundancy applications closed in record time, after just around a fortnight, and the lack of meaningful support for workers was such that it is no wonder that OVO’s initial trawl did not secure the required number of voluntary redundancies in all areas of its business. Despite OVO’s new-found confidence that it will reach its target for voluntary redundancies after an extension, when I met Adrian Letts just yesterday, OVO was still refusing to rule out compulsory redundancies. The lack of transparency in that regard instils fear that the impact of the job losses and office closures that have been announced might be only the tip of the iceberg. Hard-working staff at OVO deserve much better. They deserve much more than a situation in which they are levered and coerced into making life-changing decisions in just a matter of days.

Of course, this is not the first time that OVO has broken promises to staff and contravened the Government’s fair work agenda. This is the latest in a series of broken promises from OVO to its hard-working staff. Let us remember, as other members have noted, that this is the company that promised job security when it took over in January 2020, only to lay off thousands of workers at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in May 2020.

We cannot allow companies such as OVO repeatedly to disregard basic fair work principles. It is high time that OVO took those principles seriously. I ask the minister to consider what sanctions can be applied to companies that undermine and break the fair work principles, and I agree with Alex Rowley that not a penny more of taxpayers’ money needs to go to such companies.

We need transparency and a commitment to no compulsory redundancies. We need a longer period for voluntary redundancies, matched with a package of support for people who are looking to retrain and upskill in other areas of the company. Instead, OVO’s response so far has left its workforce in a catch-22 situation in which workers must choose between applying for voluntary redundancy, even if they are interested in upskilling, or facing the risk of compulsory redundancy.

Several weeks ago, the Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, Ivan McKee, promised that he would consider how the Tay cities deal could provide further support for those who are affected by OVO’s plans, in the same way that support was provided for workers after Michelin closed its doors in Dundee. I would like Tom Arthur, in closing the debate, to report back on what those options might be.

If OVO cares at all about its employees and its reputation, it must now work hard to change the course of its actions, to offer meaningful support to its workforce and to work with those workers to develop the business to meet customer needs.

17:50  

Audrey Nicoll (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

l thank Jim Fairlie for lodging his important motion.

Having spent much of my childhood growing up in Stanley, just north of Perth, I still feel a strong connection to the city and the wider area. This must be an extremely worrying time for OVO’s workforce across Scotland, and I would like to express my deep disappointment about the situation to everyone who is affected. We know that for every job loss, many others are affected, including our families, communities, businesses and, of course, the supply chain. The jobs in Perth and Dunfermline are invaluable to the local economy.

As we also know, the plans for redundancy were explicitly denied by the company when it took over SSE’s retail arm in January 2020, at which time it stated that “nothing will change”. Despite the promises, four months later, the company offered voluntary redundancy to 2,500 employees, and 18 months later its new plans were announced. The original promises have now been forgotten as the damaging plans to close offices across Scotland have come to light.

It is extremely disappointing that OVO’s chief executive officer, Stephen Fitzpatrick, was unwilling to respond to questions from my colleagues about his plans. That reflected a clear lack of compassion on his part for the workers who made the company so successful in the first place. OVO’s decision comes at the worst possible time, as we try to recover from the perfect storm of the pandemic, Brexit and poor management of the economy by the UK Government.

I commend the work that my colleagues in Fife and Perthshire have done to press the company on its plans and to seek assurances on the future of the workforce. In that regard, it may offer a ray of light to look at Dundee, where, not so long ago, a similar issue emerged when Michelin closed its doors after half a century, which cost more than 500 jobs in the city. In Dundee, the SNP administration worked collaboratively with Michelin to develop a proposal that has come to fruition. Work is now under way to transition the site to become a new innovation park that will employ around 100 highly skilled staff. I would be delighted if a similarly creative approach could be considered in advance of the second meeting with OVO, which is planned to take place over the coming weeks.

At this point, it is important to note that such events make it clear why Scotland should have more powers over corporate governance and employment law. It is an unfortunate fact that decisions such as OVO’s are indicative of a UK economy in which takeovers, major restructuring and, sadly and regrettably, redundancies are becoming too common. It is an economy in which companies can make promises and then break them, with nothing much being done to hold them to account. The result is that the UK has among the lowest average wages and lowest gross domestic product per capita of comparable nations in north-west Europe. As well as working long hours, we have among the lowest levels of job protection, the poorest sick pay and the lowest pensions, while productivity remains modest, at best. Those facts provide clear evidence of why we need full economic powers to sit north of the border.

I know that Jim Fairlie and other colleagues will do all that they can to support all OVO staff who are impacted by the company’s announcement, and I will do all that I can to support them in their efforts.

17:54  

Graham Simpson (Central Scotland) (Con)

I, too, thank Jim Fairlie for, and congratulate him on, bringing this debate to the chamber. It is really important for those of us who represent areas that are affected by the closures—the Cumbernauld office is one of the offices that could close, and Cumbernauld is in Central Scotland, which I represent.

I have spoken to OVO staff in Cumbernauld. They took something of a risk when they spoke to me, because they told me that they had been contacted by the company and told in rather threatening tones not to breathe a word about the matter to anyone. That is an appalling way to deal with people. Those people spoke to me on the basis that I would not reveal who they were—and, of course, I will not. However, that should never be the case, and that left a sour taste in my mouth.

We have already heard a bit of the history of OVO and SSE and about how we came to be where we are. I have no real confidence in people being told that there will be no compulsory redundancies—I simply do not believe that. When companies close offices and create hubs, people tend to go whether or not they want to. The Cumbernauld office is the nearest office to the so-called superhub in Glasgow. It might be said that that is the most convenient place, but it is not convenient for everyone. Not everyone can get to wherever that hub is. It does not suit some people who work part time whom I have spoken to—they will sometimes spend more time travelling than at work. That simply does not work.

I think that Jim Fairlie rightly mentioned the move to digital contact centres. I have experience of that. When the company that provided my electricity and gas at home closed down, I was switched to another provider—not OVO—and now I am on a tariff that means that I cannot speak to anyone. If I want to find out anything, it is impossible; I cannot speak to someone on the phone—I have to go through an app or a website. It is utterly ludicrous. I consider myself to be someone who is able to deal with most things, but I want to speak to somebody. Elderly customers who are perhaps not as tech savvy as I am will not be able to do that.

Murdo Fraser

I recently had the unfortunate experience of having to phone OVO Energy as a customer, and I think that I waited for 40 minutes before the phone was answered. Having to hang on for that length of time is an extremely inconvenient experience for anyone.

Graham Simpson

Murdo Fraser is right. That is utterly unacceptable.

I came across a quote from a spokesman for OVO, who said:

“Scotland is a great place for our business, which is why we are making it an operational centre of excellence and one of our three office locations.

We are opening a new OVO Academy in Glasgow ... While we are closing some of our offices, there is an opportunity for remote working. ... We are committed to investing in Scotland; creating higher skilled, better paid jobs in Scotland.”

If only I could believe that. I do not believe it, and OVO should think again.

 

17:59  

The Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth (Tom Arthur)

I am grateful for the opportunity to respond on behalf of the Government. I commend Jim Fairlie for bringing this important debate to the chamber.

The debate highlights an issue that is, of course, of great importance to many in the chamber, but it is of even greater importance to OVO’s employees in Perth, Cumbernauld, Dunfermline and Edinburgh. My ministerial colleagues and I were very disappointed to learn of OVO’s announcement in January that it plans to close sites in Perth, Cumbernauld, Dunfermline and Edinburgh and is seeking 1,700 voluntary redundancies across the UK. The news will have come as a great blow to the workers at the affected sites and those in the local areas.

Jim Fairlie was right to point out that, when OVO acquired the retail business from SSE, the company was very vocal in praising the quality of the team that it had inherited. It is disappointing, therefore, that the workforce was reduced first by the voluntary redundancies announced in 2020, and will be reduced once again by the company this year asking for large numbers of voluntary redundancies.

As we have heard in the debate, the subject is of constituency interest to several members alongside Jim Fairlie, including the Deputy First Minister and the Minister for Higher Education, Further Education, Youth Employment and Training. I understand that interested members had their own meetings with OVO last month—and will continue to have such meetings—but have been frustrated by the lack of clarity from the company.

My colleague the Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise spoke to Adrian Letts, the chief executive officer of OVO Retail on 19 January, and questioned him about OVO’s rationale for the decision. He also challenged the company on its decision to open a new site in Glasgow instead of utilising existing properties. OVO, however, was clear in its response that it saw the establishment of the Glasgow office as the best choice for the company.

Mr McKee also wrote to the company seeking clarity on the numbers involved and the potential impact across sites in Scotland. Mr McKee spoke to the company again yesterday to seek clarity about its intentions for the workforce and to gain an understanding of the likely numbers involved. He also spoke yesterday with representatives of the trade unions at the company. He has written again to OVO for details on some of the points raised by the unions and updated local representatives.

Unfortunately, as is the case with other companies, we cannot force OVO to reverse the decisions that it is making, but we can work to ensure that the outcomes for those affected are as favourable as possible. Our priority, as always in such situations, is the workforce at the affected sites and we have acted quickly to ensure that our partnership action for continuing employment initiative is engaged with OVO. PACE met OVO on 20 January and outlined the support that could be offered to help any affected employees, which includes access to PACE information, resources and webinars, distribution of external employment opportunities and utilisation of the PACE call-back process.

That is in addition to OVO’s own offering to the workforce which, I understand, includes an external redeployment team and a choice between one-to-one career transition support via an external outplacement provider or £500 towards the cost of learning. PACE will continue to work closely with OVO to ensure that any affected employees are offered the best possible support.

I will turn to some of the remarks that colleagues have made during the debate. Along with Jim Fairlie, Murdo Fraser eloquently noted the history of energy generation in his region and the important part that it plays in the community. He also noted—as did Graham Simpson—that there are options around home working. Those points were well made and timely.

Alex Rowley posed the question of what we can do, which was echoed by Mark Ruskell. I assure members that the Scottish Government is absolutely committed to Scotland being a fair work nation by 2025. Through the growth deals, the Tay cities region deal and the Glasgow city region deal, we are providing support for those economies that will be impacted more generally.

OVO’s announcement has thrown into relief the issues that have been affecting consumers and suppliers in recent months. We know that the wholesale energy price increases have had significant impacts on consumers and energy suppliers alike. The setting of energy costs is reserved to the UK Government and, even in light of its announcement of support, we have challenged the UK Government to go further to support consumers. We have also remained in close contact with Ofgem and the energy industry.

We remain committed to ensuring a just transition as we seek to deliver on our ambitious climate change targets. That includes ensuring that people have access to good green jobs in new and growing sectors such as renewable energy. For example, as was set out in the Bute house agreement, we will scale up public investment to meet our heat decarbonisation targets and to secure a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. We will invest at least £1.8 billion over the parliamentary session, allowing us to accelerate energy efficiency upgrades and renewable heating deployment, and creating new jobs and supply chain opportunities across Scotland.

Our vision for Scotland is to create a wellbeing economy: a society that is thriving across economic, social and environmental dimensions, and that delivers sustainable and inclusive growth for Scotland’s people and places. We will shortly be delivering our new 10-year national strategy for economic transformation, which will outline how we will deliver a green economic recovery and support new, good, green jobs, businesses and industries for the future.

In addition to extensive stakeholder engagement, the strategy has been shaped by a new advisory council, which includes representatives from industry, trade unions and academia. Transformational change is a national endeavour, and we have reached out to businesses, workers and stakeholders from across the country. We also ran a nine-week consultation, which received in excess of 260 responses.

I reaffirm that the Scottish Government is doing everything that it can to support those who are affected. We are working to put in place the foundations for our future economic recovery—one that is sustainable and inclusive.

We note OVO’s proposal to introduce new net zero adviser roles and we would welcome the opportunity to understand its ambition for the academy and vision for zero-carbon advisers. We have set out an ambitious pathway to decarbonise homes across our economy and we already have good experience in advice provision through our national fuel poverty programmes and publicly funded services such as home energy Scotland. That makes Scotland an attractive place to anchor the growth of net zero adviser capability in the private sector. I encourage OVO to engage with Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government to explore ways in which Scotland and its workforce can benefit from that.

Meeting closed at 18:07.