SNP ministers have been accused of doing the “greenwashing job for fossil fuel companies” after more than 30 meetings were uncovered with oil and gas giants attempting to lobby for hydrogen development.

The Scottish Government has backed the use of the technology as a transition fuel as the country weans itself off North Sea oil and gas.

But concerns have been raised over the cheaper and more commonly-used types of hydrogen, grey and blue hydrogen, which uses methane and produces carbon which is harmful to the environment.

Green hydrogen, which uses renewable energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis remains an expensive process ,although costs are expected to fall as the technology develops.

Read more: Explained: What is green hydrogen and where can it be used?

In April, the Herald revealed that the chairman of the Scottish Government's just transition commission raised questions over the SNP’s renewed independence case after insisting there is no evidence the country can export renewable hydrogen abroad.

The Scottish Government’s updated case for independence brands renewable hydrogen as potentially “Scotland’s greatest industrial opportunity since oil and gas” amid claims it could create up to 300,000 green jobs – almost double the number working in the NHS in Scotland.

Climate campaigners have raised concerns over 30 meetings being held between Scottish ministers and oil and gas companies where hydrogen was discussed.

The activists are also concerned over an additional 70 meetings with companies who stood to benefit from the roll-out of hydrogen technology in Scotland.

Read more: SNP's just transition chief blows hole in independence economic case

The Scottish Government has pledged more than £100 million to this industry and has refused to rule out using hydrogen from fossil fuels, particularly as a gateway to ramping up the green variety of the fuel.

Ministers have referred to fossil fuel versions of hydrogen as ‘low carbon’ despite the methane leakage during gas production and the extra energy required to run the partial carbon capture process upon which it relies.

Fossil fuel giants BP and Shell met MSPs 17 and nine times respectively over the strategy – which campaigners warn demonstrates how hard the industry is pressing politicians to claim hydrogen as a climate solution despite mounting evidence that the technology is too expensive and inefficient.

Evidence shows that using hydrogen for heating our homes is more expensive and less efficient than direct electrification through technologies like heat pumps.

In February, the Herald revealed independent research commissioned by WWF Scotland that labelled using renewable hydrogen for heating buildings as a “distraction”, with a call to focus on heat pumps.

Read more: Heat pumps will cut energy bills amid fears over climate target

During COP26 being held in Glasgow, the Scottish Government published its draft hydrogen action plan which sets out a strategy to grow the industry.

On the same day, freedom of information records show that the SNP Government organised a dinner for the hydrogen industry at Edinburgh Castle, including 52 company lobbyists.

The event, which cost taxpayers £11,000, was hosted by then SNP business minister Ivan McKee and was attended by Nicola Sturgeon and representatives from BP, Ineos, Shell, the Wood Group and Offshore Energies UK.

It has also been revealed that then net zero secretary, Michael Matheson, travelled to Rotterdam in May 2022 to speak at the World Hydrogen Summit which marketed itself as "the global platform where hydrogen deals get done.”

The two-day conference had host partners BP and Shell and “diamond sponsorship” from Saudi oil company Aramco and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

Shell met with then Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse in January 2021, where the official record states Shell specifically “emphasised the importance of both blue and green hydrogen."

Friends of the Earth Scotland climate campaigner Alex Lee, said: “Hydrogen lobbyists have made a targeted push trying to persuade the Scottish Government to ignore the mounting evidence about the technology’s inefficiency and huge costs.

Read more: Revealed: SNP ministers who have met with oil giant behind Rosebank

“By incorrectly classifying hydrogen from fossil fuels as ‘low carbon’, Scottish Ministers are doing the greenwashing job for fossil fuel companies.

"Big polluters like Shell and BP are selling hydrogen hard because it allows them to keep on drilling for fossil fuels and keep the public locked into an energy system using oil and gas for decades to come.”

They added: “The Scottish Government has been taken in by the marketing hype around hydrogen, promising over £100 million of public money to the industry and repeating outlandish jobs creation claims.

“Ministers must end their support for hydrogen from fossil fuels and instead use renewable power directly in heating and transport rather than wasting time and energy by converting it to hydrogen first.

“If the Scottish Government wants to tackle the climate crisis and deliver a just transition away from oil and gas, it must cut ties with the fossil fuel industry and ban them from lobbying.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Hydrogen technology has tremendous potential to help deliver a just transition for our energy sector, realising huge economic benefits while supporting our net zero transformation.

"Scotland has vast natural resources with which we can become a leading nation in renewable hydrogen production and export, while others are looking beyond their borders to nations that can produce and provide that hydrogen at scale.

“Ministers undertake a wide range of stakeholder engagements relevant to their portfolio areas and Energy Ministers meet with businesses, owners and operators in the sector as a matter of course.

“Our focus must be meeting our energy security needs, reducing emissions and ensuring a just transition for our oil and gas workforce and supply chain as North Sea resources decline.”