Nicola Sturgeon faces claims she has “abandoned” the North Sea oil and gas industry after confirming her opposition to the controversial Cambo scheme.
The first minister cemented her government’s shift away from long-standing support for the sector, saying: “I don’t think that Cambo should get the green light”.
Ms Sturgeon’s comments at Holyrood follow the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.
She had previously urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “reassess” proposed oil and gas schemes, such as the Cambo development, off Shetland.
But she went further on Tuesday when challenged by Labour’s Monica Lennon.
The SNP leader said: “I’ve made my position very clear, I don’t think we can go on extracting new oil and gas forever.
“That’s why we’ve moved away from the policy of maximum economic recovery, and I don’t think we can go and continue to give the go-ahead to new oil fields, so I don’t think that Cambo should get the green light.
I don’t think we can go and continue to give the go-ahead to new oil fields, so I don’t think that Cambo should get the green light.
“I am not the one taking that decision so I’ve set out a proposal for a climate assessment and I think the presumption would be that Cambo couldn’t and shouldn’t pass any rigorous climate assessment.”
Last week, Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) warned that skilled jobs would be axed unless Holyrood addressed the growing belief that oil and gas can end with a “flick of the switch”.
Jonathan Roger, CEO of Siccar Point Energy who operates Cambo, said: “Whilst the decision rests with the UK Government, Cambo is significant for Scotland. It would create over 1,000 jobs and support many thousands more in the supply chain. Cambo is already accounted for in the net zero plans laid out by the Climate Change Committee, Oil & Gas Authority and Office of Budget Responsibility.
“Saying no to new UK oil and gas, while other neighbouring countries such as Norway continue to develop new fields, denies workers who keep our lights on and businesses running the chance of a fair transition.”
Siccar Point added that the facility would produce 50% less emissions than an average UK field and would represent 0.68% of volumes expected to be approved globally this year.
OGUK External Relations Director Jenny Stanning said: “While we are accelerating greener energies to help ensure Scotland achieves net zero by 2045, we’ll still need oil and gas as those technologies are scaled up, to avoid the lights going out. Stopping our own production means we’d simply have to import it from Russia, Qatar and other countries at a bigger cost to the taxpayer, jobs and the environment.
“All identified oil and gas fields like Cambo are already accounted for in the net zero plans laid out by the Climate Change Committee, Oil and Gas Authority and Office for Budget Responsibility.”
Scottish Conservative energy spokesman Liam Kerr said: “Nicola Sturgeon has come off the fence and fully abandoned Scotland’s oil and gas industry.
“In a desperate bid to please her Green coalition partners, egged on by Labour, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that she is against the Cambo field and the thousands of Scottish jobs it would protect.
‘The SNP have deserted the industry’
“By refusing to back the Cambo development, the SNP have deserted the industry they once cited as the cornerstone of their economic case for independence.
“Only the Scottish Conservatives are resolute in standing up for the livelihoods of oil and gas workers in Scotland as we transition to net zero.”
Cambo could yield as many as 255 million barrels of oil over its lifetime – and produce an estimated 132m tonnes of CO2 emissions.
Scottish Greens climate spokesperson Mark Ruskell welcomed Ms Sturgeon’s remarks.
“I welcome this clarity from the first minister,” he said.
“She is absolutely right that expanding oil and gas is folly during the pressing climate crisis.
“That’s why with Greens in government Scotland is investing in the alternatives, expanding renewable energy and decarbonising homes and transport, creating new jobs along the way.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland Head of Campaigns Mary Church said: “We welcome the first minister’s acknowledgement that there is no credible climate test that the Cambo oil field could ever pass.
“This is an important progression of the Scottish Government’s position, which must now translate into clear opposition to all new fossil fuel projects.”