Rosebank Oil and Gas Field

– in the Scottish Parliament on 20 April 2023.

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Photo of Maggie Chapman Maggie Chapman Green

3. To ask the First Minister whether he will provide an update on what recent engagement the Scottish Government has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding the proposed development of the Rosebank oil and gas field, in light of the Scottish Government’s draft energy strategy and just transition plan. (S6F-02014)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Licensing of exploration and production of the offshore oil and gas sector remains reserved, regrettably, to the UK Government. The Scottish Government is clear that unlimited extraction of fossil fuels is not consistent with our climate obligations. It is not the solution to the energy price crisis, to meeting our energy security needs or, indeed, to ensuring a just transition for our oil and gas workers, as North Sea production inevitably declines.

That is why we need a new plan for Scotland’s energy system. The draft energy strategy and just transition plan seeks to do that. The Scottish Government is absolutely committed to a just transition and to ensuring that we take workers with us on the important journey to net zero. We will not do to the north-east what Thatcher did to mining and steel-working communities right across Scotland.

Photo of Maggie Chapman Maggie Chapman Green

I thank the First Minister for that response. While recognising that licensing is reserved, the draft energy strategy and just transition plan sets out the position that

“in order to support the fastest possible and most effective just transition, there should be a presumption against new exploration for oil and gas.”

Since the draft plan was published, the United Nations secretary general has said:

“our world needs climate action on all fronts—everything, everywhere, all at once. ... Ceasing all licensing or funding of new oil and gas ... Stopping any expansion of existing oil and gas reserves” and

“Shifting subsidies from fossil fuels to a just energy transition.”

Whether it is Rosebank today or other proposals to drill tomorrow, does the First Minister agree that a just transition on a liveable planet depends on our firm commitment to a fossil fuel free future?

The First Minister:

I agree that we should all want a fossil fuel free future and, on that, I agree that delivering on our climate obligations is an absolutely priority. As one of the first things that I did—I think that it was my second official visit as First Minister—I went to the north-east of Scotland and spoke to people who are absolutely committed to that just transition, particularly in the north-east. I want the north-east of Scotland to be the net zero capital of not just Europe but the world, and I believe that it has the potential to do so.

Maggie Chapman is absolutely right that, first and foremost, we have to make sure that any decisions that are taken by the UK Government must be taken in relation to our climate obligations. We want the UK Government to strengthen its climate compatibility checkpoint. We have asked for tougher and more robust climate tests.

Secondly, we should ensure that the decisions align with our energy security needs.

My third point is really central, and I believe that Maggie Chapman will agree with me. We must take the workers of the north-east with us. As I have already said, we will never do to the north-east what Margaret Thatcher did to our mining and steel communities. We will not decimate sectors and we will not leave a single worker on the scrapheap. That is why I will continue to invest in and accelerate the just transition as quickly as possible.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

New exploration and production in the North Sea would protect more than 70,000 Scottish jobs. It would help our energy security and it would have a positive impact on emissions, rather than offshoring our responsibilities. Will the First Minister therefore re-examine the plans in his threadbare energy strategy to close the North Sea, or will he continue to be dictated to by a cabal of Green MSPs?

The First Minister:

That is, of course, not what is in the draft strategy. If we truly unleash and unlock the green economy, we would be talking about tens of thousands of jobs over the next couple of decades. We want to take the workers of the north-east in particular with us on that journey.

What a cheek Liam Kerr has to stand there and talk about Scottish energy jobs when the party that he belongs to and the UK Government have continued to block, delay and dither when it comes to the Scottish Cluster and the Acorn project, which it has refused to give permission on and has relegated to track 2. I say once again that the Tories can never be trusted when it comes to protecting Scottish jobs.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Scotland and the UK will continue to need and rely on gas for decades to come. In many cases, gas is imported from the US, but its gas is produced with more than four times the carbon emissions of Rosebank. Does the First Minister therefore agree with me that sacrificing the development of our own gas resource would not only decimate tens of thousands of highly-skilled well-paid jobs in a form of economic masochism that is advocated by the wine-bar revolutionaries in the Green Party but make climate change worse, not better?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Before the First Minister responds, I remind members of the requirement to treat each other with courtesy and respect.

The First Minister:

Deputy Presiding Officer, I suspect that that is not the first time you have had to tell your brother off.

Let me make a point of agreement with Fergus Ewing and say that nobody I have heard in the Scottish Government or the Green Party has said that extraction must stop tomorrow. We understand that a just transition means that we have to take the workers of the north-east with us. The point is that the transition has to be just, which is why we believe that we must accelerate the just transition with further investment in non-fossil fuel alternatives.

Independent research that was based on industry projections found that production in the North Sea will be around one third of 2019 levels by 2035. We therefore know that it is a declining basin, which is why we have to make sure that we accelerate the just transition. Meanwhile, as at 2019, only 16 per cent of the oil and gas that comes into Scotland, including imports from Norway and beyond, is consumed in Scotland. Reducing our energy consumption while ramping up our energy generation capabilities through renewables and hydrogen will mean that a net zero Scotland will not only be less reliant on imported oil and gas but will, I hope, be a net exporter of cleaner and greener energy to the rest of the UK and beyond.