NINE people have been arrested in connection with the occupation of an oil rig which - but Greenpeace say their protest has not been brought to an end.

Two Greenpeace activists who were occupying the rig have been removed from the structure  in the Cromarty Firth and arrested, police have confirmed.

But now Greenpeace has claimed two more activists have now boarded the rig.

Police said nine people in total had been arrested in connection with the demonstration.

But Greenpeace UK's executive director John Sauven has said: "Our climbers are back on the oil rig and determined to stay for as long as possible.

"BP are heading out to drill a new well giving them access to 30 million barrels of oil - something we can't afford in the middle of a climate emergency.

"We can't give up and let oil giants carry on with business as usual because that means giving up on a habitable planet and our kids' future."

The last two men to be removed from the rig were aged 40 and 50. They were taken ashore by boat.

Officers boarded the rig in the Cromarty Firth at around 2pm on Thursday and arrested two men, aged 40 and 50, ending a five-day protest.

READ MORE: Activists board North Sea oil rig for new BP climate change protest

Greenpeace activists first scaled the 27,000-tonne Transocean rig Paul B Loyd Junior,  - thought to be operated by BP - as it attempted to leave Cromarty Firth on Sunday evening.

The rig, under contract to BP, had been due to leave from near Invergordon, heading for the Vorlich oil field east of Aberdeen.

The protesters were calling on BP to stop drilling for oil and hoped to stop the drilling rig from reaching the Vorlich oil field.

It is said to be a continuation of protests over BP's oil exploration and production plans which comes three weeks after demonstrations when oil company executives met to hold their annual general meeting in Aberdeen.

The Herald:

Chief Superintendent George Macdonald, Highlands and Islands divisional commander, said: "The particular nature of this protest on an oil platform within a marine environment made this an extremely complex and challenging operation.

"The safety of all involved was of paramount importance and we have utilised highly trained specialist officers from across the entirety of Police Scotland to deal with this incident.

"Police Scotland fully understand the rights and privileges of peaceful protests, however, there is a balance when such actions are potentially reckless and compromise safety.

The Herald:

"We also have a duty to act where criminality is suspected or identified."

Greenpeace said they were trying to stop the drilling rig reaching the Vorlich oil field where it is believed to be trying to extract up to 30 million barrels of oil.

The group said that on Thursday a police helicopter was seen landing on the rig's helideck, dropping off a group of police officers in climbing gear.

Transocean had served an interdict on Greenpeace in an attempt to have protesters still occupying the rig removed.

Greenpeace earlier said it understood there were plans to lower the rig down into the sea to give police easier access from a boat to where the protesters were camped.

The Herald:

Greenpeace said that two police boats then approached the rig while police climbers approached the activists from above and removed a banner reading "climate emergency" from the gantry.

The activists were occupying a gantry on a leg of the 27,000-tonne rig below the main deck.

The pair who first boarded the rig on Sunday were relieved by two more activists on Monday evening.

Greenpeace UK's executive director John Sauven said: "Our activists have blocked BP's rig for four long days, braving the rain and the cold, to stop this oil giant from fuelling the climate emergency.

"They've now been arrested but there are many more ready to take action."

He added: "Business as usual is not an option - we won't give up until BP ditches fossil fuels and switches to renewables."

Police said the two men who were arrested were taken to shore by boat, bringing the total number of people arrested in connection with the operation to nine.

The force said that inquiries are ongoing.

The Transocean PBLJ rig was under contract to BP.

A BP spokesman said: "BP is grateful for the support of Police Scotland, Transocean and all authorities who helped bring this incident to a safe conclusion. It was a complex operation that required specialist skills and resources to be mobilised from across the country and was carried out in a professional and respectful manner.

The Herald:

How Greenpeace announced the occupation

"Police Scotland, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Port of Cromarty Firth worked together, dedicating time and resources in response to the protestors' actions. This response diverted significant time and resources away from public services, including Police Scotland.

"BP supports discussion, debate and peaceful demonstration, but the irresponsible actions of Greenpeace put themselves and others unnecessarily at risk.

READ MORE: Greenpeace activists scale BP's London headquarters in oil protest 

"We share the protesters' concerns about climate change, we support the Paris agreement and are committed to playing our part to advance the energy transition.

"However, progress to a lower carbon future will depend on coming together, understanding each other's perspectives and working to find solutions, not dangerous PR stunts that exacerbate divisions and create risks to both life and property."

Since BP’s 2018 carbon emissions rose to their highest in six years, the London-based energy firm has been lobbied by activists and an increasing number of shareholders to ensure its operations are in line with goals set by the 2015 Paris climate deal to curb global warming.

It comes after it emerged in April that BP had approved the latest in a series of North Sea developments while seeing profits fall eight per cent in the first quarter amid oil price volatility.

These include plans to develop the Seagull field in the North Sea, which Mr Gilvary described as an advantaged oil project.

Last year BP approved plans to develop the Vorlich find east of Aberdeen and the Alligin field West of Shetland.

BP plans to double its North Sea production to 200,000 barrels of oil per day by 2020, and add 900,000 of globally by 2021.

But the company has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2.5 million tonnes since the start of 2016, putting it on its way to hit a target of 3.5m tonnes by 2025.

The approvals reflect a big change in the company’s attitude to the North Sea since selling off a raft of older North Sea assets and shed hundreds of jobs in the area in response to the crude price plunge between 2014 and 2016.

At its annual meeting in Aberdeen, last month, BP backed a resolution put to investors for it to be more transparent about its emissions, link executive pay to reducing emissions from BP’s operations and show how future investments meet Paris goals.

The motion, whose proposers included a group of 58 investors holding 10 percent of its shares, known as Climate Action 100+, passed with 99% shareholders support.

The Herald:

A separate resolution drawn up by activist group Follow This that would require BP to reduce emissions not just from its own activities but also from the fuel and products it sells to customers, is understood to have been opposed by the company and was rejected by 92% of shareholders.

Activists had earlier interrupted the meeting shouting "this is a crime scene" in a protest over ending new oil and gas exploration some carrying yellow mock police cordon tape.  They were led away by security staff.