I am delighted to be on Shetland today. And it is great to be here at the impressive and striking Shetland Museum, the home of Shetland’s rich heritage.
In this unique building Shetland’s past - its culture and its customs - comes alive.
I am also positive about Shetland’s economic future.
This morning I carried out the peat cutting ceremony which marks the start of work on the Laggan Tormore Gas Plant.
This project will play a leading part in Shetland and Scotland’s energy future.
The development of the new gas fields west of Shetland shows the continued significance of oil and gas in Scotland’s energy mix over the coming decades.
Total’s project marks a milestone in the development of the West of Shetland area, which contains about one-fifth of the UK’s remaining oil and gas reserves.
North Sea oil and gas has been a hugely important aspect of Scottish economic life for most of my lifetime.
Of course, in the process, oil and gas has transformed the Shetland economy too. Shetland has been home to Sullom Voe, the largest oil and liquefied gas terminal in Europe, since construction began 35 years ago.
In the years to come the new gas fields west of Shetland will be the deepest yet developed on the UK Continental Shelf. They will also be operated remotely from the new processing plant and control room.
I am pleased that Total has been able to take advantage of the field allowance for remote gas fields located in deep water. And it is good to see that the necessary gas infrastructure is being put in place to meet further development and expansion. I believe that this represents a successful outcome to the work of the West of Shetland TaskForce.
The jobs dividend is significant for the local economy and beyond. The new gas plant will create up to 500 new jobs during construction. And support more than 2,000 jobs across the UK during the project’s lifetime. Four years from now, in mid-2014, we look forward to seeing the first production of gas from the new field.
Energy is a key factor in Scotland’s future economic prosperity. And it is grounded on the expertise which we have built up in the challenging environment of the North Sea. That’s why I am optimistic that we will fully harness the possibilities presented by the new oil and gas fields as well as our exploiting our abundant natural wind and wave resources. I believe that Scotland has the skills and experience to realise our energy potential.
The government’s position
I would also like to take this opportunity to say a few words about the new coalition government. We know that Scotland and the UK faces serious and urgent challenges but we will meet them with a united front.
I can assure you that the new government is determined to act in the national interest as we tackle the tasks that we face.
The Prime Minister underlined in Scotland last week that we are committed to providing strong and stable leadership built on the key pillars of freedom, fairness and responsibility.
The rancour and conflict of the past does not address the challenges of today. And it fails to provide us with the best platform to exploit the undoubted opportunities of the future.
We are pledged to forging a new politics. The Scotland Office will be at the frontline of the new politics, with the spirit of co-operation at its heart - and a real commitment to extend this co-operation to the Scottish government too.
We all want to see a stronger and more prosperous Scotland. I look forward to working with you all to achieve this common goal.