DAVID Cameron has indicated that North Sea oil firms will have to wait until March to receive a tax cut, hours after Nicola Sturgeon made a plea for immediate action in face-to-face talks between the two leaders.

The First Minister revealed that in a meeting with the Prime Minister in her Holyrood office, she had pressed for the UK Government to "act now" to support the sector, following a damaging drop in the oil price to less than $50 a barrel.

The Scottish Government has called for a hike in the supplementary charge levied on oil profits introduced in 2011 to be reversed straight away, a move it says would protect thousands of jobs.

However, speaking shortly after he met Ms Sturgeon, Mr Cameron indicated that while he was willing to make changes he believes the Budget, to be announced in March, would be the "right time" to address issues.

"What the Chancellor has rightly said is that we understand the pressure the industry is facing, which is a very low oil price," he said.

"We have seen record levels of investment in recent years and we want to help them meet those challenges. We took some steps in the Autumn Statement in terms of tax, there's opportunities in the Budget to look at these issues... I think the Budget is the right time to address these issues."

Speaking after meeting, the First Minister said: "Chief among the action required is an immediate reversal of the 2011 hike in the Supplementary Charge and I made it clear that it is not sufficient for this change to wait until the March budget... In boardrooms worldwide, oil companies are now making decisions which will impact on jobs in Scotland. Investors need a strong signal that the North Sea is open for business and that the UK Government understand the needs of the industry - and they need that signal now."

Mr Cameron also spoke with executives from the oil and gas industry, alongside Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander. In a move that was welcomed by Ms Sturgeon, he announced a consultation over incentives on offer to the industry in return for exploration had been brought forward. It is hoped that a new system will simplify the existing regime of field allowances and provide certainty for companies.

Industry body Oil & Gas UK also welcomed the announcement, but backed Ms Sturgeon's call for tax cuts.

Chief executive Malcolm Webb said: "We now need a much lower, simpler and more stable tax regime that will allow the investor to shift their focus away from fiscal risk towards investment opportunities."