A senior Scottish Conservative MSP has hit out Rishi Sunak after the Prime Minister watered down the UK Government's climate pledges and delayed key green measures.

Maurice Golden said his party leader had dragged "net zero into the territory of culture wars."

In a hastily organised press conference in No 10 last Wednesday, Mr Sunak pushed back the ban on purchasing new petrol cars from 2030 to 2035 and delayed the target of eliminating gas boilers.

The Prime Minister insisted he was committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 but that he wanted to take a “more pragmatic, proportionate and realistic approach”.

Though he insisted the move was not political, it has been widely interpreted as an attempt to put some distance between the Tories and Labour.

READ MORE: Patrick Harvie in row with Tories over EV charge criticism

Writing in the The Times, Mr Golden was scathing. The normally loyal backbencher, who previously served as his party's chief whip, said he was uncomfortable criticising No 10 but felt the need to speak out. 

He said: “I understand fully why it was done from a political perspective, but it’s a regressive move that isn’t only damaging environmentally but economically and socially too.

“It drags net zero into the territory of culture wars.

“The way the changes were framed and delivered will polarise communities and create a binary environment where you’re either for climate change initiatives or against them.

“I thought we had moved past that years ago, not least when the UK showed considerable ambition in becoming the world’s first big economy to set its net zero target in law.

“Seeing the pathway to that ambition being watered down is deeply regrettable.”

The Herald:

The shift, Mr Golden claimed, “didn’t only annoy the green lobby”, pointing to businesses already in the process of making changes to meet the targets.

“Policy changes like this erode trust in the government, a trust that was already vulnerable thanks to the brief period in office of Sunak’s predecessor. And this announcement will hurt UK plc too,” he said.

He added: “On Tuesday I’ll be speaking as part of a Holyrood debate on the climate emergency.

“It’s not a comfortable position for me to be criticising my own party on this matter.

“But the climate crisis is far bigger than any of that, and it’s imperative that governments in both Edinburgh and London start doing considerably better.”

READ MORE: Net zero U-turn: Rishi Sunak has 'thrown in towel' on climate crisis

The Tort also used the column to criticise the Scottish Government, accusing it of making “a mess of a series of other climate change initiatives, such as enforced replacement of boilers and a despicably poor infrastructure of electric vehicle charging points”.

He added: “They failed on biodiversity, woodland creation, green jobs and, worst of all, the creation of a genuine circular economy that could be worth £3 billion to Scotland.

“So let’s not take any lessons from the SNP when it comes to the UK government’s net zero approach.”

Mr Golden's comments echoed those made by Scottish Green co-convenor Patrick Harvie on Sunday morning when he told BBC Scotland's Sunday Show that the Prime Minister was using the climate emergency to create a "new wedge issue.” 

“We know that the population as a whole has very few people who are outright climate deniers," he said. 

"People want to do the right thing. They want climate action. They see the urgency of the planetary emergency that we're living in at the moment.“

“We're now seeing outright climate denial on a scale we haven't seen before and the Tories love it,” he added. 

Fellow Scottish Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said on X, formerly Twitter, he “fundamentally disagrees” with Mr Golden on the issue, but added that “at least in @ScotTories our MSPs are permitted to dissent from the Party line without facing sanctions”.

Màiri McAllan, the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero tweeted: "Add Tory MSPs to the list of those condemning the PM’s climate climb down. Although just as with Truss’ disaster budget, Douglas Ross falls into line."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Tories said: “We support the Prime Minister’s announcement, which set out a pragmatic route to achieving net zero that is affordable for hard-working families, while keeping us on track to meet international targets.”