Douglas Ross says SNP's Cambo U-turn motivated by 'constitution over climate' in plea to Nicola Sturgeon

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has accused Nicola Stugeon of putting the “constitution” before climate in a written plea urging the SNP leader to support jobs in the North Sea.

Scottish Tories leader Douglas Ross. Picture: John Devlin
Scottish Tories leader Douglas Ross. Picture: John Devlin

The letter from Mr Ross, quoting the SNP’s old slogan of “it’s Scotland’s oil”, comes after the First Minister said the UK Government should “reassess” the licence for the proposed Cambo oil field near Shetland.

Ms Sturgeon made her first intervention on the Cambo issue on Thursday, saying the climate emergency meant there “cannot be business as usual”.

The SNP administration is in talks with the Scottish Green Party over a potential co-operation agreement which could pave the way for the Greens to enter government for the first time.

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Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie responded by accusing Mr Ross of being a “petulant online troll”, describing the Scottish Conservatives as an “embarrassment” over their support for the Cambo project.

Mr Ross’s letter to the First Minister said her new position appeared to be “motivated primarily by the constitution, not the climate”.

The Scottish Conservative leader said: “The SNP used to shout from the rooftops that ‘it’s Scotland’s oil’ – now they wish it was gone.

“More than 100,000 jobs depend on Scotland’s oil and gas industry. A speedy but sensible transition to net zero is essential to protect those jobs, our communities and the wider economy.

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“Where are working-class families supposed to find the cash to pay the higher energy bills that would emerge from abandoning the North Sea sector?

“The oil and gas industry has more detailed plans for reaching net zero than the SNP Government, which has missed its climate change targets three years running.”

He continued: “Nicola Sturgeon’s letter is motivated primarily by the constitution, not the climate.

“This change of heart is about sealing a nationalist deal with the Greens and provoking a grievance with the UK Government in the run-up to COP26.

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“Instead of playing childish political games to further their nationalist interests, the SNP should focus on tackling the Covid economic crisis.”

The phrase “it’s Scotland’s oil” was first used by the SNP in the 1970s to promote Scottish independence.

Ms Sturgeon’s letter on Thursday stopped short of full opposition to the Cambo field.

She said licences like the one for Cambo “should be reassessed in light of the severity of the climate emergency we now face, and against a compatibility checkpoint that is fully aligned with our climate change targets and obligations”.

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Mr Harvie said of the Tories’ position: “Firstly their ‘net-zero’ spokesperson called for the vast new oil field at Cambo to go ahead, then their leader starts regurgitating old SNP slogans like some kind of petulant online troll.

"There is an enormous amount of pressure on both the Prime Minister and First Minister to recognise that to continue expanding oil and gas extraction is irresponsible when climate breakdown is accelerating now.

"That pressure is not just from us, but from the overwhelming scientific data published by the IPCC this week, from the UN Secretary General who said countries should end fossil fuel exploration and production, and from public opinion.

“The First Minister’s letter was a first step, but we need to be much clearer with the UK Government that the just transition away from oil needs to start now. ”

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