SNP leadership contender Humza Yousaf has vowed to turn the north-east into a renewable energy “superpower” – if he leads Scotland to independence.
He said thousands of jobs would be created under his plans to invest in state owned onshore wind, solar and hydro projects.
And he wants the Holyrood government to secure longer-term revenues from future offshore wind licensing rounds.
But Aberdeen business chiefs said any new SNP leader must end its opposition to new North Sea oil and gas exploration, branding the policy “economic self-sabotage”.
Humza Yousaf campaigns in Aberdeen
The health secretary, who is battling Kate Forbes and Ash Regan to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as first minister, took his campaign to the north-east on Friday.
Speaking ahead of a visit to a Wartsila servicing site in Altens, he said: “It is time for Scotland to own our green future and my plans will use the powers we have available to cement Aberdeen as a renewable energy capital of the world.”
Does it depend on independence?
Mr Yousaf insisted Scottish independence offered the only way to “truly unleash our energy potential”.
The Glasgow Pollok MSP, who is based in Dundee, said: “With independence we can go so much further – we can turn the north-east from a region of enormous renewable potential to a genuine renewable superpower.”
Energy policy became an early battleground in the fight to become first minister.
Ms Sturgeon’s government has been under fire for its recent weakening of support for North Sea oil and gas, and failure to properly plan for a transition to cleaner industries.
Mr Yousaf is considered the candidate most likely to continue with Ms Sturgeon’s stance on a range of key issues.
Business groups want action now
Ryan Crighton, policy director at Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said the ambition set out by Mr Yousaf’ on his visit was welcome.
But he complained Mr Yousaf is the only candidate not to respond to the group’s suggestions for meaningful action.
“That action must start with the removal of the Scottish Government’s newly adopted position supporting a presumption against oil and gas exploration – an act of economic self-sabotage which will only serve to drive jobs and investment overseas,” he said.
The current strategy favours importing energy, which he argues is worse for the environment and jobs.
“Until this presumption is removed, a promise to protect every job is impossible to deliver,” he added.
“We set this position out in a letter to all three candidates almost four weeks ago. Mr Yousaf is the only one who hasn’t responded.”
Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative north-east MSP said all the SNP leadership candidates were “trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes” by feeding “false promises” to the people of the north-east.
“For far too long, the SNP government has used Aberdeen and its energy sector as a cash cow for the central belt,” he said.
North-east frustrations with the UK and Scottish governments intensified after the region lost out in its bid to host one of Scotland’s two green freeports, which were awarded to Cromarty Firth and the Firth of Forth instead.
On Friday, the Scottish Government said a new consultation was proposing incentives for businesses to invest in the freeport sites.
Under the plans, changes to Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) rules would offer full or partial relief from the tax on non-residential buildings and land in certain areas within the green freeports.
Relief would be available for a period of up to five years on land or property bought or leased for certain commercial activities.