Oil and Gas (New Licences)

First Minister’s Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at on 13 June 2024.

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Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

Presiding Officer,

“As clean energy expands and fossil fuel demand declines ... there is no need for investment in new coal, oil and natural gas.”

That quote is not from the Scottish Green Party manifesto; it is from the International Energy Agency. This week, the Scottish Government continues to equivocate on new licences for oil and gas. The First Minister’s latest position is that the Scottish National Party is okay with new oil and gas if it passes a climate compatibility assessment. How does the First Minister think that any climate compatibility assessment will say that it is okay to drill for new oil when global experts in the energy industry say that it is not?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

It has been the Scottish Government’s position for a formidable amount of time—it is certainly not something new this week—that climate compatibility assessments have to be undertaken on any particular new oil and gas licence applications. That has been the Scottish Government’s position for some considerable time.

The Government’s position is that we have got to assess our energy security needs, reduce our emissions in line with our climate commitments and deliver affordable energy supplies. The commitment that I willingly give to Lorna Slater is that the Government recognises the absolute necessity of the journey to net zero, which is why there has to be a climate compatibility assessment on any consideration of oil and gas licensing. That is why I will have no truck with the commitment of the Prime Minister to 100 new oil and gas licences without a question being asked.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

Our position on the energy transition needs to be evidence based. That evidence does not change on a case-by-case basis. The Scottish Government’s position is like a 40-a-day smoker being told by the doctor, “Stop smoking. You’re killing yourself,” and the smoker replying, “I’ll treat each cigarette on a case-by-case basis.” That position is not only threatening our environment but putting off investment in the green jobs of the future that our communities so desperately need. When will the Scottish National Party get off the fence, get behind the science on this and admit that Scotland’s future relies on green energy and on Scotland’s oil staying in the ground?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

It might just be me, but I am not sure that the analogy that was conveyed in the question worked particularly well. People would expect their Government to act in an evidence-based fashion. That is exactly what we will do. We will look at the evidence in any individual application, although I point out for factual accuracy that we do not take those decisions. Those decisions are taken by the United Kingdom Government, but we would argue for that consideration. That is why I say that a reckless commitment to 100 new oil and gas licences is just the territory of climate denier status, and I will go nowhere near that.

A really good volume of investment in green jobs is being undertaken. The Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Energy was in Nigg just a few weeks ago at the inauguration of the Sumitomo plant, which has been a fabulous investment in the renewables sector. I was in Ardersier, where there has been a significant investment in green jobs in a project involving the Scottish National Investment Bank and Haventus.

Over the Scottish National Party Government’s time in office, we have substantially decarbonised electricity generation in Scotland, whereby, if my memory serves me right, our net electricity generation has gone from 26 per cent to 113 per cent in the most recent data. All of that demonstrates our commitment to renewable energy, which will be absolutely central to the Government’s energy strategy when it is published.