HUMZA Yousaf’s energy minister has signalled the Scottish Government's conditional support for the controversial Rosebank oil field.

Neil Gray said Edinburgh could back the development west of Shetland if it passed tougher “climate compatibility checkpoints” designed by the UK Government.

The checkpoints are meant to ensure oil and gas licences are only granted to projects that align with the UK’s climate objectives, although critics say they are a sham.

In 2021, Nicola Sturgeon indicated the Scottish Government would oppose all new oil fields because of the impact of fossil fuels on the climate.

Confirming her opposition to the Cambo field, she said: “I don't think we can … continue to give the go ahead to new oil fields. So I don't think that Cambo should get the green light.”

However Mr Yousaf has since blurred that line, saying in May there should be no new extraction of North Sea oil and gas unless there was a “good reason to do so”.

On Wednesday the Scottish Government’s annual report on the country’s public finances, the GERS report, showed a surge in income thanks to North Sea oil and gas taxes.

For the first time since the oil price slump of 2014, Scotland contributed more per capita in tax to the Treasury than the rest of the UK as prices surged in the energy crisis and the introduction of a windfall levy.

READ MORE: Scottish Water accused over £50k salary rise for new chief

Scotland’s geographical share of the taxes rose by £6.9bn to £9.4bn in 2022/23, helping to narrow Scotland’s notional deficit from 12.8% to 9% of GDP. 

More income from the North Sea could help the SNP argue Scotland would have a secure footing in the early days of independence, but would also alienate their Green partners in Government and undermine Scotland’s target of achieving Net Zero by 2045. 

The largest untapped oil field in the UK, Rosebank, 80 miles west of Shetland, is estimated to contain between 300 and 500 millions barrels of oil.

The Norwegian state-controlled company Equinor, which wants to start production as soon as 2026, says it could produce up to 69,000 thousand barrels of oil and 44m cubic feet of gas per day, accounting for 8% of total UK oil production by 2030.

Advocates say it would create 1600 jobs and add £24bn to the economy over its lifetime.

Opponents say that if the UK Government gives Rosebank final approval it would be a “total betrayal” of the UK’s climate goals.

When Greenpeace protesters recently draped Rishi Sunak’s Yorkshire mansion in oil-black fabric, it was in part to highlight his belief that Rosebank should go ahead. 

A decision is due from the North Sea Transition Authority and the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment & Decommissioning are due to sign off the project before it goes before UK Energy minister Grant Shapps for final approval within weeks.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland this morning, Mr Gray, the SNP’s energy and wellbeing economy secretary, was repeatedly asked if he supported the Rosebank development given the recent financial boost to the public finances from the oil and gas sector.

READ MORE: Playwright David Greig apologises in row over Tweets

After avoiding a direct answer, he finally accepted that the Scottish Government could support it if the conditions were right. 

Mr Gray said the £6.9billion increase in revenue last year from oil and gas was “obviously welcome” and said oil and gas continued to play an important role in Scotland and beyond.

He went on: “Obviously oil and gas will be with us for some time to come.”

Asked a second time if he supported the development of the Rosebank field, he said: “I’m coming to that. Oil and gas continues to play a significant role in the UK economy. 

“We continue to make a major contribution as a result. But we need to have a faster transition away from oil and gas and to the green industries of the future that are going to see us reach Net Zero and take our obligations to the climate emergency seriously.

“So I want to see more stringent climate compatibility checkpoints for the UK to take a decision over licences such as Rosebank, because it is a decision for the UK Government to take, not for us.”

Asked a third time if he would support the development of the Rosebank field if it led to more windfall taxes, Mr Gray said: “I’ve made the point that this is a decision for the UK Government to make.”

Pressed a fourth time to say if the Scottish Government would support the development of the field, Mr Gray did not rule it out, but set a condition for Scottish Government backing.

“Not without more stringent climate compatibility checkpoints. That’s the point that I’ve just been making.

“We want to see a faster transition away from oil and gas. We have an abundance of natural resource in renewable energy.

“I want us to take better advantage of that.”


Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell said: “Developing and drilling Rosebank would be a climate disaster. If we want to have a liveable future then we must end oil and gas exploration, and drastically cut our dependence on planet-wrecking fossil fuels

“Unfortunately the powers to stop Rosebank sit with the Prime Minister who has already made it clear that he will not take the climate emergency seriously.”