Nicola Sturgeon has warned that an immediate ban on new North Sea exploration could cost “jobs, livelihoods and living standards” in the north-east.
However, the first minister admitted that there are “difficult decisions” to be taken in the battle against climate change, and “big things” to confront in the next parliament.
Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie raised reports that the UK Government was reviewing exploration licensing and could stop granting permission to new proposals.
During first minister’s questions, he challenged Ms Sturgeon to support what he said would represent a “vital move to protect our planet”.
Ms Sturgeon stopped short of agreeing with the idea, which industry leaders have warned would result in the loss of jobs and companies.
She said: “We have to achieve a just transition in the interests of people whose jobs depend on certain sectors.
“I want to see that transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable sources of energy, and Scotland’s transition in that respect is well under way, but we need to do it in a way that supports people into new employment instead of leaving them unemployed and that does not substitute our energy for increased imports that add to our carbon footprint.
“There is no disagreement about what we need to do, but how we do it matters for the jobs, livelihoods and living standards of many people across Scotland — and, in this case, many people across the north-east of Scotland.”
However, Ms Sturgeon appeared to signal that such issues could potentially be confronted by the government after the election.
Speaking about various actions that were required in the battle against climate change, she said: “Many other countries across the world are looking to Scotland for leadership, because they recognise the leadership that Scotland is showing.
“As we go further down the road to 2030 and 2045, the decisions get harder and more challenging.
How Scotland moves from fossil fuels to renewables in sectors such as the North Sea is important for jobs in the north-east, says Ms Sturgeon.
“That is when we often see other opposition parties — not, I hasten to add, Patrick Harvie — shy away from those difficult decisions.
“As we go into a new parliamentary session, there are big things that we have to confront and face up to, but the leadership that Scotland is already showing is something that should give all of us pride as we prepare for COP26, in November.”
Speaking afterwards, Mr Harvie said it was “embarrassing” that the first minister was standing up for the fossil fuel industry “more than a Tory prime minister with a dismal environmental record”.