SNP must come clean on oil and gas policy

We need a just transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

The SNP must “come clean” about their position on new oil and gas, says Scottish Green co-leader Lorna Slater. 

The call follows a series of media interviews and interventions from Scottish Government Ministers who have distanced themselves from the current position of a presumption against new exploration, with the retreat becoming a key climate issue in this General Election campaign.

Ms Slater has written to the First Minister calling for him to urgently clarify his position. During last night’s STV debate he was asked multiple times and did not provide a clear answer. In interviews this morning the Cabinet Secretary for Communities implied that new licences could be dependent on climate compatibility tests.

Ms Slater said: “The science is crystal clear. We can’t keep on drilling. We need to leave most fossil fuels in the ground if we are to have any hope of avoiding climate catastrophe. 

“That is why the presumption against new exploration is so crucial, and why any retreat from this position would be shameful. Scotland deserves clarity. It’s time for the SNP to come clean and let people know where they stand. 

“SNP proposals for a climate compatibility assessment are a distraction at best, given that new investment in fossil fuels is incompatible with our environmental commitments by definition. There is no procedural reason why the SNP cannot clarify their position during this election campaign as they also appear to be arguing.

“Only the Scottish Greens accept this basic science of climate change and are committing to the policies we need to keep our climate safe and deliver a real and just transition to net-zero.”

Text from Lorna Slater’s letter to the First Minister

Dear First Minister,

I am writing to ask that you urgently clarify the Scottish Government’s position on the licensing of new oil and gas fields in the North Sea.

The climate crisis is rapidly worsening, and accelerating the transition to net-zero is more vital than ever. However, the transition is not simply about promoting green energy; we have to transition away from fossil fuels at the same time, and that will require bold and decisive action.

The science and expert advice on the future of fossil fuel extraction is crystal clear.  One major scientific study, for example, concluded that “By 2050, we find that nearly 60 percent of oil and fossil methane gas, and 90 percent of coal must remain unextracted to keep within a 1.5 °C carbon budget”, and the International Energy Agency has issued clear advice that investment in new fossil fuel production must end now. Scottish oil and gas is not exempt from this rule; indeed we have a greater responsibility to act given our historic contribution to the climate crisis.

There is no doubt that this is politically challenging, and that a dramatic increase in investment by the UK Government into the green technologies and industries of the future will be needed if we are to deliver a fair and just transition for Scotland and particularly for communities in the North East. 

But this is exactly why we must all be making the case for the climate action Scotland needs during this General Election Campaign.

When our parties worked together in the Scottish Government we developed a proposed position of a presumption against new oil and gas exploration. We regard this as a bare minimum as to what is required to support the transition to net-zero and deliver on our international climate commitments.

I therefore noted with disappointment your comments on last night’s debate, and those of your colleague, Shirley Anne-Somerville, which suggest that the SNP may now retreat from this position. 

Given the urgency of the climate crisis and the importance of this issue to Scotland, I believe that this is of critical public interest, and therefore ask that you clarify the Scottish Government’s position as soon as possible.


Lorna Slater MSP

Co-leader, Scottish Greens