Most Scots, including around half of SNP supporters, support the UK Government granting 100 new drilling licences for the North Sea oil and gas.

Humza Yousaf yesterday accused Rishi Sunak of “climate denial” for giving the go-ahead to the licences despite the impact of fossil fuels on global warming.

However a new Survation poll for advisory firm True North, set up by former SNP spindoctors Fergus Mutch and Geoff Aberdein, found the Scottish public was in favour.

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Of the 1022 online respondents, 54% believed the UK government was right to grant the licences, 23% believed it was wrong and 23% were undecided.

Mr Sunak made the announcement on a visit to the North Sea in June, and the first sites are due to be confirmed this autumn.

The PM said greater domestic oil and gas production would boost energy security and help the UK transition to net zero and the greater use of renewable energy.

Critics say most of the oil will be exported and sold on the world market, and burning it will contribute to the climate crisis wherever it happens.

Survation found 75% of Scots favoured domestic production over the importing of oil and gas, while 56% said the North Sea sector had a positive impact on the UK economy.

The poll also found 58% of Scots thought the UK government’s windfall tax on oil and gas profits was ineffective in cutting household bills or pushing energy firms into renewables.

The latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures published last week showed Scotland’s share of oil and gas revenues rose to a record £9.4 billion in 2022/23 thanks to receipts from the windfall tax.

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Survation also asked if people supported the Scottish Government’s policy of ending the future exploration of oil and gas in UK waters, but True North, who describe themselves as “Net Zero leaders”, did not release the results.

Nicola Sturgeon opposed new drilling, but Humza Yousaf has been more circumspect, saying it could be justified in certain circumstances.

His energy minister Neil Gray has also said the Scottish Government could back the massive Rosebank field if it passed tighter UK government environmental tests .

The SNP’s partners in the joint government, the Scottish Greens, are vehemently opposed to new fields being opened up.

The issue is a source of tension in the SNP, as many of its MPs and MSPs represent the north east of Scotland, where oil and gas jobs are concentrated.

True North Managing Partner, Fergus Mutch said: “Overall, the Scottish public considers the energy sector an economic force for good. They want North Sea reserves used while we still need oil and gas as part of the mix as we transition to greener sources of energy.

“By utilising those resources at hand we can ensure that the jobs and economic benefits are realised here in the UK, and avoid the cliff-edge scenario of investment and critical skills being lost to overseas.

“The recent announcement of new oil and gas licences gives industry greater clarity and grounds for confidence - and our poll puts public opinion in Scotland squarely behind such an approach.

“Nobody is in any doubt about the scale of the challenge in reaching net zero and the effort that must go into decarbonising energy to tackle climate change.

“But the protection and creation of jobs and the need to ensure Scotland’s world-class energy leads that global energy revolution means we must manage the transition carefully.

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Ryan Crighton, Policy Director at Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, added: “The Scottish Government’s presumption against oil and gas must go and be replaced with a policy position which will deliver energy security and transition in tandem.

“If the alternative is importing oil and gas at a greater carbon cost, then we must favour domestic production.

“It’s simple, it’s pragmatic and it commits us to sourcing the fossil fuels we need in a manner which minimises emissions and secures tens of thousands of Scottish jobs.

“Helping to deliver UK energy security and the drive to reach net zero go hand-in-hand.

“The analysis shows that domestically-produced gas creates significantly fewer emissions than average imports, and that continuing to produce gas in the UK as cleanly as possible will assist in the drive to cut emissions.”