Energy companies have been given the green light to begin drilling in the controversial Rosebank oil field off the coast of Shetland.

Development and production consent for operations to begin in the field - the largest untapped repository of fossil fuel in UK waters - has been granted by the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA).

The NSTA said consent has been given by the oil and gas regulator to owners Equinor and Ithaca Energy, following the acceptance of the Environmental Statement.

Environmental campaigners including Greta Thunberg had voiced strong opposition to the development.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon posted on social media that she agrees with Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who described the decision to give consent to Rosebank as the “greatest act of environmental vandalism in my lifetime”.

The drilling of Rosebank was also opposed by Nicola Sturgeon, though her successor Humza Yousaf has not been so vocal. 

READ MORE: Poll finds Scots in favour of more drilling in the North Sea

The Rosebank field lies north-west of Shetland and contains up to 350 million barrels of oil.

Equinor, the Norwegian firm behind the project, say the field could produce 69,000 barrels of oil per day – about 8 per cent of the UK’s projected daily output between 2026 and 2030 – and could also produce 44 million cubic feet of gas every day.

An NSTA spokesperson said: “We have today approved the Rosebank Field Development Plan which allows the owners to proceed with their project.

“The FDP is awarded in accordance with our published guidance and taking net zero considerations into account throughout the project’s lifecycle.”

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

Decisions on oil and gas exploration and licensing remain reserved to the UK Government.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Agree with @CarolineLucas. Also, by consuming scarce resources that could be going to renewables, it risks slowing the green transition and the jobs that come from it.

“That’s not in interests of those who work in oil & gas – they need that transition to happen at pace.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said on social media: “After abandoning wider climate policy last week, once again the UK Govt is wrecking our future.

“Hundreds of millions of tons of carbon emissions. No benefit to energy price or security.

“No just transition for workers. These people would literally burn your future for profit.”