Extinction Rebellion Scotland occupy National Museum of Scotland to disrupt Scottish Oil Club dinner

At 5pm, a group of around 30 activists sat down in the middle of the main hall and held a peaceful People’s Assembly focusing on the damage done to the world by the fossil fuel industry and paths to transition away from it immediately.

Protesters sit on floor in middle of museum as other protesters hang flag from balcony saying Climate Emergency
XR Scotland occupy National Museum of Scotland

Two banners were dropped over the balcony reading “Climate Emergency” and “Smash the Patriarchy – Save the Planet”.

When asked to leave by the police, a number agreed to leave. 13 people stayed and continued the Assembly. 6 were locked together with D-locks. All 13 were arrested and eventually taken away by the police with last arrestees leaving the space around 8pm.

The dinner was meant to be seated in the main hall at 7.30pm. Activists occupying the space delayed the event being set up, which could only be done after they had left at 8pm.

Outside, around 300 protestors had a party on the street with music, bands, dancing, speeches and ceilidhs. When guests started arriving, protestors lined the entrance to the museum and sang, chanted and spoke to them about the climate emergency.

This action was planned in a context of rapid and uncontrollable climatic breakdown that is unprecedented in the course of human history.

Robert Alcock commented; “I am disrupting the Scottish Oil Club annual dinner because we shouldn’t allow this industry, which profits from destroying the earth, to celebrate in our museum. In 2002 I witnessed the Prestige oil spill, which devastated the beautiful northern coast of Spain where I was living and working. This made me realise that oil and life just don’t mix. Sooner or later we have to get rid of fossil fuels all together and the sooner the better.”

Mim Black, 26, commented “The fossil fuel industry has hoodwinked the British public into believing they are an asset to the country – I believe it is a drain. Fossil fuel lobbying threatens democracy. Climate chaos is already underway across the planet, and we know that the fossil fuel industry is a major driver of this. We must immediately start putting safety before profit.”

Lauren McGlynn commented, The oil industry has brought us to the brink of extinction. They have irreversibly damaged and desecrated our one and only precious planet. They have lined their pockets with the ashes of our collective future. They have built obscene amounts of wealth through war, genocide, and by poisoning our water, our air, and our land. The oil industry’s own scientists have understood nearly everything that we now know about climate change since 1979. They’ve been fully aware of the dire consequences of continuing to burn fossil fuels for over 30 years and instead of changing course, they decided that it was more important for a handful people to hoard hundreds of billions of dollars, than it was for humanity to have access to a habitable planet. I can imagine no worse crime than this. They must never feel comfortable celebrating these crimes again. They are not welcome in our museum, they must stop their plundering, and they must pay for the damage they have done.”

Climate change is already happening much faster than anticipated, with record temperatures and extreme weather across the globe. Drastic and immediate action is required if we are to escape the unimaginable consequences of runaway climate change.

As an educational institution the National Museum of Scotland holds a responsibility to tell the truth and to take affirmative action in this crisis.

The members of the Scottish Oil Club include companies and individuals that bear the greatest share of responsibility for our global predicament. The oil and gas industry is not an asset to Scotland; only kept afloat by £10.5 billion in subsidies every year, they profit at our expense. The companies present at this dinner, including Shell, Total and BP, are amongst the worst historic polluters in the world. The fossil fuel industry has known full well about the dangers of climate change for over 30 years, and far from taking action, has engaged in lobbying to protect its narrow self-interest and to prevent effective action on climate change. Even now, when climate science is clear about the  need for a rapid transition to a zero carbon economy, the sponsors of the Scottish Oil Club continue to spend billions of pounds developing new oil fields around the world, locking society into a deadly dependence on fossil fuels.

We believe that fossil fuels are not an asset to this country, their continued extraction is irreconcilable with any solution to climate change and ecological catastrophe. With its enormous renewable energy potential, Scotland has the opportunity to become a genuine global leader in the fight against climate change but it must commit to wind down its fossil fuel industry and stop their search for new reserves. Extractive industries have a long track record of exploiting labour and leaving communities destroyed when industries collapse. Decentralised, community-owned renewable energy would provide more jobs, prosperity and security to the people of Scotland as well as an energy system which is democratic and run for the people.

Following our action we call for:

  1. Our government to force fossil fuel companies to stop their search for new reserves and make them pay for the damage they have caused.
  2. The NMS to pledge to never associate itself with the fossil fuel industry and to set an example for other public institutions — In 2019, the rightful place for the oil industry inside the National Museum of Scotland is as an exhibit.
  3. The NMS to fulfil its duty by informing the public of the dire consequences of fossil fuel extraction and the climate crisis it is driving.
  4. A full investigation into the damage caused by the fossil fuel industry in Scotland, including their knowledge about the climate crisis and their lobbying against effective action, so that they face justice for their violent acts against people and planet. Their ill-gotten gains should be used to fund a rapid and just decarbonisation of every sector of society.

Oil and gas facts

– Scotland hosts one of Europe’s largest oil and gas industries. 
– Refineries at Grangemouth and Mossmorran are Scotland’s largest single-point CO2 emitters. 

The UK Government spends £10.5 bn per year subsidising the fossil fuel industry, 40% more than is spent on renewable energy.  

99% of the UK’s export finance scheme was given to fossil fuel companies, ensuring developing countries get locked into a fossil fuel economy for decades.

– The Scottish Government provides finance for oil and gas businesses, including via Scottish Enterprise

– Scotland’s energy policy supports “maximising economic recovery of North Sea oil” 

– In 2015 the Scottish Government called for the UK Government to urgently implement tax breaks for oil and gas companies to avert job losses, and in 2018 the SNP supported a UK Government tax break for oil and gas.

– There have been a number of big new oil discoveries in Scotland including in deep water West of Shetland.

– The Oil and Gas Authority estimate there are 10 to 20 billion BOE remaining in the UK, including discovered and undiscovered petroleum resources.

– Decommissioning old rigs in the North Sea expected to cost UK taxpayer an additional £24bn in tax relief given to oil companies. 

Despite these tax breaks, companies like Shell have proposed leaving structures in place including oil and chemicals, posing a long-term environmental danger.

– Companies active and subsidised in the North Sea are also drilling for new oil around the world.

– E.G. BP are developing new oil fields on every continent, and have plans to increase production by an additional 900 million barrels of oil per day by 2021. 

– Shell and Exxon each run plants in Mossmorran, Fife, which turn waste gas into feedstocks to manufacture plastics. They are Scotland’s second largest source of CO2 and the subject of local criticism due to the health impacts of flaring activities.

– Exxon also sponsor the Edinburgh Science Festival’s schools programme, and as such are a target of the Science Unstained campaign.

“Decommissioning hundreds of North Sea oil and gas rig will also cost British taxpayers at least £24 billion, due to tax reliefs granted to companies in return for decommissioning.”

– New report shows just 100 companies are source of over 70% of emissions