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Nicola Sturgeon rules out new oil fields despite SNP splits on future energy supply

Nicola Sturgeon rejected calls from Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross to maximise oil and gas drilling in the North Sea. 
Nicola Sturgeon rejected calls from Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross to maximise oil and gas drilling in the North Sea. 

The first minister says more North Sea oil and gas production is not the solution to the energy crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Nicola Sturgeon rejected calls from Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross to maximise oil and gas drilling in the North Sea.

The SNP leader said new oil and gas fields can take years to come on stream, as she called for financial support from UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak to shield households from rising energy bills.

It follows remarks by former SNP energy secretary Fergus Ewing who took aim at “extreme” Scottish Green policies on oil and gas.

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives said “Russia’s appalling actions have put a renewed focus on energy security”.

Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross.

Mr Ross added: “In Scotland, we have the national resources to protect our own supplies and we have the resources to export to other countries to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.

“Last night the former SNP energy minister said and I quote ‘in principle we do need more oil and gas’.

“He continued ‘we need all the oil and gas production we can get’.

“I agree with Fergus Ewing, we can protect Scottish jobs and we can secure our energy supply.”

Nicola Sturgeon opposed the controversial Cambo oil development off the coast of Shetland.

The first minister said the government needs to consider the “implications of the changing volatility of the energy market right now” in terms of global price increases.

But she told MSPs it was “not credible” to suggest the short-term solution for the crisis is to increase North Sea production given the timescales involved.

Ms Sturgeon added that expanding existing fields would take “months, if not years” with new schemes taking “years, if not decades, to plan and develop”.

Instead, Scotland should accelerate the transition towards renewable and low-carbon energy, if it wants to reduce Putin’s influence, the first minister continued.

Scottish Conservative north-east MSP Douglas Lumsden also pressed the first minister on comments made by SNP colleagues who have re-examined the speed the country tries to move away from fossil fuels.

The Ukraine crisis has put renewed focus on the UK’s energy security.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford shared concerns that shutting down North Sea oil and gas production would be replaced with “more wasteful imported fuels”.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Members of my party are engaging in an intelligent way about these issues, which I think is incumbent on all of us to do.

“In terms of Ian Blackford’s comment, we should cut off demand for Russian oil and gas.

“For as long as states or companies are buying Russian oil and gas, we are however inadvertently helping fund his illegal war and probably in the process prolonging that war so I call for import bans on Russian oil and gas.”

How did the offshore industry respond?

Offshore Energy UK chief Deirdre Michie called for investment in renewable energy the production of oil and gas.

She said: “This is because production from the North Sea continues to decline, and without fresh investment, we will only increase our reliance on oil and gas imports while we go through the energy transition.”

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said there should be a UK consensus.

“However, again, the first minister has chosen a different path, despite a significant intervention from her former energy minister yesterday,” he said.

“North Sea oil and gas will remain an essential part of the UK’s energy mix in the transition to net zero over the coming decades.

“This was the case before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the current crisis further underlines just how crucial domestic supplies are for our energy security.”

Is the SNP shifting on the future of oil and gas?

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