Kate Forbes: New North Sea licences must be considered on ‘case-by-case basis’

The Deputy First Minister was put under pressure over the issue by the Conservatives

New oil and gas licences in the North Sea must be considered on a “case-by-case basis”, the Deputy First Minister has said, in a further sign the SNP’s position on fossil fuels has shifted.

Kate Forbes said further offshore extraction, which is reserved to the UK government, “must be consistent with our climate obligations”. She was put under pressure over the issue while standing in for John Swinney, who is attending D-Day commemorations, at First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood.

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Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross repeatedly asked about the SNP’s position on new oil and gas fields. He accused the party of putting tens of thousands of jobs at risk.

Kate Forbes. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA WireKate Forbes. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Kate Forbes. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Ms Forbes said the SNP was “absolutely crystal clear” in its support for a “just transition” in the oil and gas sector.

She said: “The difference between this party and the Conservatives is that we will never abandon our workers, we will never leave a legacy of inequality, and we will never destroy communities like the Tories did in the last transition.

"Any further extraction must be consistent with our climate obligations, and we must approach licensing on a rigorously evidence-led, case-by-case basis, with robust climate compatibility and energy security being key considerations.”

On Wednesday, Ms Forbes said the party had “never said no” to new developments. The SNP Government previously proposed a presumption against new licences under Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon.

Mr Ross said the SNP had opposed the controversial Rosebank and Cambo oil fields, and quoted past comments by party figures such as Màiri McAllan, the energy secretary, and Ms Sturgeon.

In 2021, when she was first minister, 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.”

Mr Ross said: “Let me clear: the Scottish Conservatives support new oil and gas licences, because new developments will protect jobs in the north-east of Scotland. But they will also support the just transition to net zero. They’ll keep bills down, they’ll prevent us having to import costly oil from foreign countries, and they will secure Scotland’s energy future.

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"Now, they are trying to pretend otherwise, but the SNP are against new oil and gas licences, regardless of the impact on workers affected.”

Ms Forbes said: “We’ve never proposed a policy of no further North Sea licensing at all. We have said, quite clearly, that it has to be compatible with our climate change obligations.”

Scottish Green co-leader Lorna Slater said: “The SNP and Tories appear to be in complete and inexplicable denial about the scale of the climate crisis and the huge amount of damage being done to our future by fossil fuel giants and polluters.

“They are sending a really dangerous message and are putting their own narrow and short-term political considerations ahead of our environment. Their lack of any leadership on the issue is as lamentable as it is alarming.

“The science is clear. We cannot and must not hide behind so-called climate compatibility tests. There is no safe amount of new drilling, not when it is destroying our planet.”

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