AROUND two thirds of people in Scotland think the UK Government should draw up a plan to wind down oil and gas production in the North Sea and redirect related spending to ‘green’ industries, a survey has found.

Campaigners said the results of the survey would pile pressure on the UK Government to move faster to take the steps needed to deliver on its net zero pledges.

The results are published today by the Uplift environmental initiative as Boris Johnson prepares to meet other leaders of the G7 group of wealthy countries at a summit in Cornwall this week.

Uplift says that if the Government is serious about net zero it must commit to ending new oil and gas activity while ensuring workers affected get the training needed to move into industries such as wind power.

Environmentalists were incensed in March when the Government refused to rule out new exploration licences as it unveiled a £16 billion North Sea transition deal.

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Last month three activists backed by Uplift launched a bid to take the Government to the High Court, on the grounds that the official drive to maximise North Sea production is both unlawful and irrational.

They claim support for oil and gas production is incompatible with the UK’s legal duty to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and involves wrongly using billions of pounds of taxpayers money to subsidise firms.

The campaigners include a member of the Scottish National Party’s policy development committee, Kairin van Sweeden. She said the results of the survey commissioned by Uplift showed that UK Government support for the oil and gas industry went against the wishes of the UK electorate.

Sixty one per cent of respondents across the UK want the Government to draw up a concrete plan to wind down existing extraction and production of UK oil and gas. Some 63% believe the government should redirect spending allocated to North Sea oil and gas production to low-carbon industries such as wind and solar power and energy efficiency.

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The calls for change are endorsed by bigger majorities in Scotland, with the two proposals winning the support of 65% and 66% of respondents respectively.

Over half of respondents - 54% in the UK and 53% in Scotland - said the Government should set an end date for all oil and gas extraction in the country, not just for exploration.

Uplift founder Tessa Khan said the survey results confirmed the Prime Minister’s mandate to urgently shift support away from oil and gas and towards green industries like wind, solar and energy efficiency.

HeraldScotland: Uplift founder Tessa KhanUplift founder Tessa Khan

“By a large majority, the public wants a clear plan for winding down the industry and substantial support for oil and gas workers to retrain for other jobs. What the UK government has delivered so far is heavy on rhetoric and woefully light on detail, including the requisite public support,” said Ms Khan.

Uplift highlighted the value of the tax breaks provided to oil and gas firms. They will be able to get relief for the cost of decommissioning huge numbers of platforms, wells and related infrastructure in the North Sea. The regulator has said the costs involved could reach more than £50bn.

Uplift said the survey revealed that two thirds (66%) of the public – and 72% of Conservative voters – believe that oil and gas companies should pay all or most of the cost of decommissioning and dismantling North Sea rigs.

The findings of the survey present a fresh challenge for the oil and gas industry in the battle for public opinion.

North Sea industry leaders insist oil and gas firms can play an important role in the effort to tackle the threat of climate change.

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They say gas is an important transition fuel that can be used to reduce the use of more carbon- intensive sources such as coal while the required renewables capacity is installed. The expertise developed in the industry could be used to support the development and deployment of technologies such as wind and solar power, hydrogen fuel and carbon, capture and storage.

Deirdre Michie of industry body OGUK noted last week that oil and gas still provides three-quarters of the UK’s energy needs, with domestic production meeting 70% of demand in 2020 alone. She said it would make no sense to end domestic production only to have to import more oil and gas from countries in which the UK has no control over emissions of greenhouse gases. OGUK noted in April that the jobs of 102,000 people in Scotland were supported by the oil and gas industry.

The survey completed by ICM Unlimited for Uplift involved online interviews with 2,312 adults, including 475 in Scotland.