COP27: Nicola Sturgeon accused of dodging question from climate activist on proposed Rosebank oil field off Shetland

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of not answering a question from a climate activist on controversial proposals for a new oil field in the North Sea.

The First Minister was approached by Wiktoria Jedroszkowiak – an activist with Fridays for Future Eastern Europe – on Tuesday, who asked about her stance on the Rosebank field.

Rosebank – proposed to the west of Shetland by the Norwegian state-controlled firm Equinor – could be as much as twice the size of the controversial Cambo development, which was paused following public outcry including from the First Minister.

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The Scottish Government does not have the power to deny the necessary permissions for development of oil fields, but Ms Sturgeon has previously waded into debates around the issue, including coming out against Cambo last year.

Nicola Sturgeon speaks to members of the media at the finish line of the Running Out Of Time climate relay. Picture: AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell
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Mr Sturgeon was approached by Ms Jedroszkowiak while at the COP27 climate talks in Sharm El-Sheikh. In a video of the interaction posted on social media, the activist said: “My friends from Scotland, they are very concerned about the Rosebank oil field and I want to ask if you have any opinion on that?”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “I need to go just now.” Ms Jedroszkowiak pressed: “It was very important when you said no to Cambo last year.”

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The First Minister said: “My opinion on this is really clear. We’ve got to move away from fossil fuels, we’ve got to do that in a just way. Your friends in Scotland speak to me about these things regularly.”

The First Minister had turned to walk away and did not reply when the activist asked if she was “going to say no” to Rosebank. Speaking after the video was released, Ms Jedroszkowiak said: “When I spoke to Scotland’s First Minister, she did not give me a straight answer on her position on the Rosebank field.

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“I know how important it is for political leaders to do everything they can to stop new fossil fuels like this from going ahead. The development may be off the coast of Scotland, but new oil and gas is simply pouring fuel on the fire of the climate crisis, which is already causing massive harm around the world, and further threatening young people’s future.”

Mary Church, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said the First Minister’s decision to speak out against Cambo last year “set a precedent”, adding “it helped demonstrate to oil companies that their climate-wrecking plans were unacceptable”.

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Ms Church added: “It is vitally important that the First Minister is explicit in her opposition to the Rosebank field, which is significantly larger than Cambo. The First Minister is fully aware that Equinor’s plans to develop the massive Rosebank oil field fly in the face of climate science and will do nothing to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis.

“The oil in Rosebank will be exported and sold on the open market, further inflating Equinor’s massive profits while keeping us locked into volatile fossil fuels. The go-ahead for new oil and gas projects lies with the UK Government, but it is clear that the Scottish Government has the power and the duty to influence this process. A final investment decision by Equinor is likely to be made next year.

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Scotland’s net zero secretary Michael Matheson said Ms Sturgeon had previously made clear the “unlimited extraction of fossil fuels is not consistent with our climate obligations”.

He said: “It is alarming that the UK Government appears to believe that licensing of more than 100 new oil and gas fields will not ‘materially impact’ the ability of the UK to reach net-zero by 2050 and reckless to believe that this approach is in anyway consistent with our climate obligations.”

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