John Swinney calls Rishi Sunak ‘climate denier’ over North Sea oil and gas

John Swinney. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA WireJohn Swinney. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
John Swinney. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
The First Minister said the decision to grant 100 new licences was ‘utterly irresponsible’

John Swinney has called the UK Government’s decision to grant 100 new North Sea oil and gas licences “utterly irresponsible”.

The First Minister accused Rishi Sunak of being a "climate denier” and argued new projects should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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Mr Swinney was quizzed about his position on oil and gas during an interview on the BBC’s Panorama programme on Wednesday evening.

Last year, Mr Sunak said granting new licences was "entirely consistent" with net zero commitments and "the right thing to do".

But Mr Swinney said: “The Prime Minister has basically said he will license 100 new projects. I think that is utterly irresponsible. That is climate denier status of the first order.

"We’ve got to have a rational, considered process to look at every application to determine whether it can be sustained and compatible with our climate objectives.”

The SNP has repeatedly come under pressure over its position on oil and gas. It previously proposed a presumption against new licences.

In 2021, Ms Sturgeon said: "I don't think we can go on extracting oil and gas forever, and I don't think we can continue to give the go ahead to new oil fields.”

Despite this, Kate Forbes, the Deputy First Minister, recently said the Scottish Government had never been against the granting of new licences in the North Sea.

She said new licences, which are reserved to the UK Government, must be considered on a "case-by-case basis, with robust climate compatibility and energy security being key considerations".

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Speaking to the BBC, Mr Swinney reiterated that new projects “need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, based on their compatibility with our objectives on climate”.

He added: “We’ve got a climate emergency. None of us can duck that. I can’t duck that, and I’m not prepared to duck it. But I’ve also got to manage a transition for the oil and gas sector that enables that sector to establish fiscal sustainability, and also to then be able to contribute towards the journey to renewable energy, which is a very significant opportunity in Scotland – particularly in the field of offshore wind.”

Andrew Bowie, the Tory candidate in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, said: “John Swinney has finally let the cat out of the bag and admitted what we all knew – that the SNP has abandoned the north-east.

“The SNP have sought to dupe voters in the north-east into thinking they were having second thoughts on opposing new oil and gas licences. But John Swinney has made it clear that nothing has changed by doubling down on his party’s anti-oil and gas stance, which threatens tens of thousands of jobs.”

Elsewhere, Mr Swinney argued an independent Scotland would focus on raising revenue rather than resorting to austerity. He has repeatedly castigated Labour and the Tories during the election campaign, claiming both parties are refusing to level with the public that £18 billion of spending cuts are required under their plans.

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