The SNP’s cabinet secretary responsible for energy and the wellbeing economy has called for a “faster acceleration” away from oil and gas despite huge fossil fuel revenues boosting Scotland’s economy.

The annual Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures, published by the Scottish Government show that the country’s deficit has improved from last year – with the net fiscal balance sitting at £19.1bn, equal to 9% of GDP.

Scotland’s geographical share of North Sea revenue was £9.4bn in 2022/23, up from £2.4 bn in 2021/22 after the start of the Energy Profits Levy or windfall tax.

The SNP’s cabinet secretary responsible for energy and wellbeing economy has acknowledged the oil and gas sector has “contributed significantly” to Scotland’s economy, but added that the potential of renewable energy to replace a move away from fossil fuels still needs to be “grasped”.

He added that a future independent Scotland “would have the powers to make different choices, with different budgetary results”.

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Despite the North Sea oil and gas sector contributing significantly to Scotland’s improved fiscal position, the Scottish Government has signalled its intent to ramp up winding down the fossil fuels industry.

The Scottish Government’s draft energy strategy suggested accelerating the inevitable decline of the polluting oil and gas sector, with SNP ministers considering the findings of a consultation before publishing the final blueprint.

But Energy and Wellbeing Economy Secretary, Neil Gray, has suggested that despite the economic benefits of the industry, he is in favour of ramping up the speed of a transition away from fossil fuels – insisting that renewable energy can replace the revenue stream.

He said: “What I want to see is a faster acceleration of that just transition so we can reap the opportunity that’s coming from an economic perspective but also from a net-zero perspective.

“We’ve been clear on our position on new oil and gas licences.

“We don’t think that maximum and unlimited extraction is compatible with our net-zero ambitions. I think I described the Prime Minister’s intervention last week as extreme, I think it’s at the extreme end.

“We need to see a just transition. Our existing energy sector, oil and gas, is incredibly important in terms of investment opportunity but also in terms of the workforce, the skills, experience.”

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But despite his criticism of the UK Government issuing new oil and gas licences, Mr Gray refused to say whether the controversial Rosebank development should be given the green light.

The Scottish Government has been routinely cricitised by climate activists for failing to oppose the Rosebank development, despite Nicola Sturgeon calling for the Cambo North Sea scheme not to be given the go-ahead.

Mr Gray said: “I don’t actually think that decision’s (Rosebank) been taken by the UK Government on Rosebank and it’s for them to decide upon it.

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“Whether we like it or not, oil and gas licencing continues to be reserved to the UK Government.

“We have said very clearly that we want to see more stringent climate compatibility checkpoints to ensure that any oil and gas operations can be consistent with our net-zero obligations.

“I stress again, oil and gas is going to be with us for some time to come.”

He added: “Obviously the oil and gas sector has contributed significantly not just to Scotland but to the public finances for the rest of the UK as well.

“What I want to see is the opportunity of renewables grasped.”