Energy debate

Sturgeon rejects call for more North Sea drilling

BP Clair Ridge
Nicola Sturgeon says raising output could take years

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has stepped up her opposition to increasing oil and gas output in the North Sea to reduce Britain’s reliance on foreign imports.

She has resisted calls from business and political opponents to support more drilling to shore up the UK’s domestic sources.

Demands for less reliance on overseas supplies have grown since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the UK Government joined the US in banning Russian imports.

Ms Sturgeon said that there was no evidence of fields in the North Sea operating below capacity so increasing output, which is a decision for the UK government, could take years and would contribute to climate change.

She told MSPs in parliament: “It’s important that we understand the realities here. Even if we were to put to one side the environmental considerations, given the timescales and the practicalities involved, it’s not credible to suggest that the short-term solution to this crisis lies in increasing North Sea production.”

However, Ms Sturgeon’s position on energy is also facing criticism from within her own party. SNP members in the northeast of Scotland were furious over her opposition to the Cambo oilfield, west of Shetland. The project became central to the green transition debate, but the backlash forced energy giant Shell to pull out and posed serious questions over jobs in the sector.

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Earlier this week Fergus Ewing, a former Scottish energy minister, called for more oil and gas extraction. He told ITV Border: “We need all the oil and gas production we can get for the short and the medium term.”

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, has called for investment in oil and gas to be integral to the shift to green sources of energy.

Offshore Energies UK, the trade association formerly known as Oil and Gas UK, points out that 85% of UK homes are reliant on gas, while 32 million vehicles on the road continue to require petrol and diesel for transport needs.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said senior SNP figures, including Fergus Ewing and Ian Blackford, were urging their party to reconsider its opposition to further oil and gas extraction in Scottish waters.

He also called for an increased use of nuclear power – which the SNP-Green coalition also oppose – in Scotland’s energy mix.

He said Russia’s “despicable” attack on Ukraine meant now was a time for realism, rather than ideology, and he urged the First Minister to ignore the Scottish Greens.

“In Scotland, we have the natural resources to protect our own energy supply and even export to other countries, to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas,” he said.

“Now is the time to maximise oil and gas production here, using the energy on our own doorstep.

“The First Minister’s position doesn’t recognise the new reality. Russia’s despicable war has changed things. Scotland can deal a blow to Vladimir Putin by increasing domestic oil and gas production.”

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