Kate Forbes has insisted the Scottish Government has never been against the granting of new oil and gas licences in the North Sea.

The Deputy First Minister, who was standing in for John Swinney at First Minister’s Questions, said that while the draft energy strategy includes a presumption against new drilling, it does allow further extraction that is consistent with their "climate obligations."

The SNP’s position has come under scrutiny during the general election campaign, with opponents accusing the party of flip-flopping.

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Responding to a question from Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, she said: “We’ve never proposed a policy of no further North Sea licences at all.

“We have said, quite clearly, that it has to be compatible with our climate change obligations and any licensing process has to be subject to a robust climate compatibility checkpoint.”

She said scientific evidence shows an “urgent need” to transition away from fossil fuels in order to meet international targets.

Mr Ross, however, accused Ms Forbes of providing “no answer”.

He added: “Let me be clear, the Scottish Conservatives support new oil and gas licences, because new developments will protect jobs in the north-east of Scotland, but they will also support the just transition to net zero.

“They will keep bills down, they will prevent us from having to import costly oil from foreign countries and they will secure Scotland’s energy future. Its members are trying to pretend otherwise, but the SNP is against new oil and gas licences, regardless of the impact on the workers affected.”

He pointed to a report by Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, which warned that blocking new licences would put 100,000 jobs at risk.

“Why is the SNP ignoring it?” he asked.

Ms Forbes said the report “had some criticisms of the Conservatives, too.”

She added: “Douglas Ross talks about supporting the north-east. I have been very clear about our position on new licences.”

The Deputy First Minister then pointed to the party’s decision to block the candidacy of David Duguid. He had been hoping to stand for re-election in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East, but the Tory management board said he could not because he is too ill.

Mr Ross is attempting to replace him.

READ MORE: Douglas Ross announces surprise bid to stand at General Election

Ms Forbes told MSPs: “If Douglas Ross wants to back the north-east, there are some big questions for him this very day—a day when he has betrayed a Conservative candidate in the north-east, whom the Conservatives trusted to be a minister in the United Kingdom Government, who is currently recovering from ill health, who was planning to stand for election and who was supported by local members.”

Ms Forbes continued: “I am old enough to remember when Douglas Ross said that he was not going to stand again for Westminster because he wanted to focus on Holyrood in 2026.

“Our position is clear: we will back the north-east, we will back workers and we intend to achieve our climate change aims.”

Speaking after FMQs, Scottish Green co-leader Lorna Slater said the SNP and Tories were in "complete and inexplicable denial about the scale of the climate crisis and the huge amount of damage being done to our future by fossil fuel giants and polluters." 

She added: “They are sending a really dangerous message and are putting their own narrow and short term political considerations ahead of our environment. Their lack of any leadership on the issue is as lamentable as it is alarming. "