MSPs will be asked to support controversial plans for the Cambo oil field as Conservatives attempt to force a wedge between the new SNP-Greens government.
An opposition debate tomorrow could highlight a gulf between the two Scottish Government partners – with the Greens calling for a quicker timetable to end the exploration of oil and gas and for the Cambo project to be halted.
The SNP has failed to oppose the controversial North Sea project, with Nicola Sturgeon instead calling on the UK Government to “reassess” licences issued amid the climate crisis.
A motion to be put forward by the Tories at tomorrow’s debate, if agreed, will state that Holyrood “supports new oil and gas projects” including Cambo, with the party claiming “a strong North Sea sector supporting tens of thousands of Scottish jobs is preferable to increasing energy imports during the transition to net zero”.
The UK imported a large proportion of gas in the first quarter of 2021 but this was partly down to North Sea production dropping during the pandemic due to restrictions.
The Scottish Tories’ net zero, energy and transport spokesperson, Liam Kerr, said: “We are bringing forward a vote on future North Sea projects, including the Cambo field, so that the Scottish Parliament can have its say on the importance of Scotland’s oil and gas industry during our transition to net zero.
“Nicola Sturgeon has already said future projects should be ‘reassessed’ and Patrick Harvie has boasted of shifting the SNP’s position on oil. The North East deserves to know if the Scottish Government still supports this vital industry and the 100,000 jobs it supports.”
He added: “The SNP have a choice – side with the North East economy or the extremist Greens. They can either back a sensible transition to net zero that limits the need to import costly energy from abroad, or they can be upfront that they favour a radical shift to end Scotland’s oil and gas industry quickly, which would likely harm our environment.
“As the SNP used to shout – it’s Scotland’s oil. We are far better off using our own energy than paying higher prices to import from abroad, where the environmental protections are lower and the carbon cost is higher.”
The Greens have accused the Conservatives of “misleading” communities dependent on the oil and gas industry, accusing them of failing to recognise the need for a transition away from fossil fuels.
Union bosses have acknowledged that there needs to be a transition away from fossil fuels industries in Scotland – so long as workers do not get left behind.
Scottish Green environment spokesperson, Mark Ruskell said: “The Scottish Conservatives clearly do not understand the meaning of the word transition. We are investing in jobs in alternative industries while the Tories call us names from the sidelines.
“Expanding oil and gas production is the opposite of a transition, and it is misleading to the communities who rely on this industry for jobs and livelihoods to suggest otherwise.
“The UN General Secretary himself has called for no more expansion in fossil fuels, and the UK Government’s own advisers the Climate Change Committee told MSPs the case has not been made. It appears the Scottish Conservatives are willing to call them extremists too, rather than provide a real future for Scotland’s communities.”
When setting out her Programme for Government last week, the First Minister pledged to “implement the recommendations of the Just Transition Commission, including a 10-year £500 million just transition fund for the North East and Moray.
Ms Sturgeon said this recognised “the particular challenges for the region of the transition from oil and gas to renewable and low carbon sources of energy”.
The First Minister has warned “there are big questions over whether we should continue with exploration in the North Sea” including at Cambo, adding “we cannot carry on with business as usual in terms of energy”.
Scottish Labour environment, net-zero and transport spokesperson, Monica Lennon, said: “The eyes of the world are on Scotland, but this SNP-Green coalition is still hiding behind Boris Johnson and failing to properly oppose the Cambo oil field.
“The message that this government is sending to the world is clear – Scotland is not serious about tackling the climate emergency.
“If they are serious about averting climate catastrophe, opposing Cambo must be a top priority for SNP and Green ministers.”
She added: “Nicola Sturgeon has weakly called for a review when she should be leading the resistance against this destructive oil field and making the case for green investment.
“The First Minister must get her coalition government off the fence, take a stand against Cambo and put every effort into securing a just transition for the workers and communities most affected by climate change.”