More than half of Scots have given qualified backing to the granting of new licences for oil and gas for drilling in the North Sea.

A fresh poll has found that 52 per cent believe extracting fossil fuels from offshore Scottish wells will reduce the UK’s reliance on imported energy.

However, fears over climate change remain high and a large majority of people want to see more investment in renewables fuel sources.

Rishi Sunak has been criticised over his announcement earlier this year of around 100 new licenses for oil and gas extraction in the North Sea by environmental campaigners.

The Prime Minister has insisted his plans to “max out” the UK’s oil and gas reserves are “evidently” sensible as he faced a growing backlash for allegedly betraying climate pledges.

The poll by Ipsos found that Scots agree with the decision by a small margin when seen through the lens of energy security – although backing is split along party lines.

Conservative and Labour voters are particularly likely to agree new licences will affect dependence on imported energy by 83% and 66% respectively - while SNP voters are more divided.

The Herald:

The Ipsos survey found that 37% nationalist voters think fresh oil and gas drilling will have a positive impact, while 40% say it will make no difference and 14% expect it will have a negative impact.

More than 4 in 10 think the policy will be good for Scotland’s economy.

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.

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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.

Looking at steps the UK could take to reduce its carbon emissions, Scottish support is strong for improving the energy efficiency of homes and businesses as a way of reducing how much the UK relies on imported energy, with 84% supporting this approach and just 3% opposing it.

Support for investing more in renewables is also high – with 82% in favour and just 6% opposed.

The public are less positive about investing in nuclear energy, although on balance more support than oppose it - with 45% in favour and 27% against.

The Scottish public are split on whether the UK should restart or increase its own production of fossil fuels.

The Herald:

More than a third (38%) say they support this, while an identical proportion (38%) oppose it, and 23% are unsure.

Concerns about climate change remains high among Scots, with 77% saying they are worried about its impact.

Almost half of those polled (44%) think fresh oil and gas licences will negatively impact the Scottish and UK Government’s abilities to meet carbon emissions reduction targets, while 19% say it will have a positive impact.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf urged to 'get off the fence' and oppose Rosebank oil plan

Emily Gray, Managing Director of Ipsos in Scotland, said: “When it comes to the future of energy, tackling climate change is important to the public, but so too are affordability and energy security.

“These new results from Ipsos highlight the importance the public place on energy security, with more than half of Scots thinking new oil and gas licences will help reduce the UK’s dependence on other countries for energy.

“The public recognise there is a trade-off, with more expecting this policy will have a negative impact on meeting carbon reduction targets than thinking it will have a positive impact. And there are stark differences by political party support, with Conservative voters more likely to support the UK restarting or increasing fossil fuel production than to oppose it, Labour voters more split, and SNP voters more likely to be opposed.”