A North Sea oil and gas pioneer has slated the Scottish Government over its banning of an energy production method he planned to trial offshore.
Algy Cluff said he has had more trouble with Holyrood than any administration he has dealt with during his long career.
The entrepreneur used to head up a mining company with operations in Zimbabwe, which at the time was led by current president Robert Mugabe.
Mr Cluff also said there might not have been a North Sea oil and gas industry if the current Scottish Government been in power 50 years ago.
But Aberdeen South MP Callum McCaig said the Scottish Government had been the North Sea’s strongest supporter.
Mr Cluff, who was involved in the discovery of the Buchan field in the 1970s, returned to the North Sea in 2012 after a gap of nearly 40 years with the launch of a new company.
He set up London-headquartered Cluff Natural Resources (CNR) with a view to developing underground coal gasification (UCG) in the Firth of Forth.
The process involves converting underground coal into gas through heating it.
Mr Cluff said he had sunk large sums of money into the endeavour on the strength of a letter dated February 2015 from then-Planning Minister Alex Neil, who assured him UCG was safe from the ban.
But in October the Scottish Government added UCG to the moratorium amid environmental concerns, derailing Mr Cluff’s plans.
Mr Cluff, 76, said: “There was no apology or explanation. I’ve spent 35 years in Africa dealing with governments which it is suggested are almost impossible to deal with, but I’d never had an experience like this anywhere in the world.”
With the future of UCG in Scotland hanging on the outcome of Scottish Government commissioned research, CNR has turned its attention to conventional gas licences, amassing 11 blocks.
It recently agreed a deal with Verus Petroleum which gives CNR an option buy to the rights to 100 million barrels of oil for about £1.
Mr Cluff added: “Our view is that the North Sea in many respects is one of the most attractive destinations in the world by reason of the market, its geology and infrastructure, and potential future discoveries and by reason of the better administrations of it through the Oil and Gas Authority, being conducted in a fair and sensible fashion.
“We can be thankful the Scottish Government is not in charge of North Sea oil and gas and, in fact, I don’t think we would have had a North Sea oil and gas industry if the current Scottish Government had been in power 50 years ago.
“Now it is run from Westminster and the Department of Energy (and Climate Change) and that is one of the factors which renders the North Sea an attractive destination.”
Mr McCaig, the SNP’s energy spokesman at Westminster, said: “I think the North Sea has had no stronger advocate in the last number of decades than the SNP. We’ve been able to assist the industry in a very difficult time so the idea we would not have supported it 50 years ago is unrealistic.”
Mr McCaig also said the government had been right to “tread with caution” in the case of the UCG moratorium.