Back in November of last year, in the full flush of post COP26 enthusiasm, Nicola Sturgeon came out against the controversial Cambo oilfield, saying that it “should not get the green light”. It seemed to mark a turning point in the SNP and Scotland’s attitude towards oil.

Less than a year on and, under Liz Truss’s government, a new licensing round is expected to approve over 100 licences, and another oilfield is the target of campaigners: Rosebank, in the deep waters off the west of Shetland, a project that is set to start in 2024, followed by drilling in 2025 and first oil towards the end of 2026. The field, it has been estimated, contains 300mn barrel of oil equivalent (boe) or recoverable oil and gas.

The scale is far bigger than Cambo, which is estimated to deliver 170 million boe, its likely climate impact still more significant. The anti-fossil fuel group, Uplift, noted, “Burning Rosebank’s oil and gas would create more CO2 than the combined CO2 emissions of all 28 low-income countries in the world.” Surely Sturgeon has to come out against this project too?

READ MORE: Truss's oil and gas plans widen the chasm with Holyrood

Or will she? We live, already, in different times – an era of war in Ukraine, staggering oil and gas prices and cost of living crisis. This is a whole new energy period in which the question of security is all the more heightened, and everyone is worrying about how its costs and supply are going to impact lives over the coming winter and beyond. UK gas production rose by 26 per cent in the first half of this year and 58% of our gas has in recent years come from the international market, chiefly down a pipe from Norway. Meanwhile, 80% of the UK produced oil is exported – and we import around the same amount we export.

There are, of course, persuasive arguments to be made in favour of Rosebank, though none of them are about saving us from the current cost of energy crisis or the climate emergency. Mostly they revolve around some mid-term and near future benefits in terms of security.

One of the arguments frequently made around the need to develop oil and gas fields is that UK demand will continue well into the future. Graphs are produced in which fossil fuel production declines rapidly over the years but demand is stuck, only slowly declining. These are graphs of fear, there to tell us people are not going to stop needing these products, to make us fear the cold winter and the blackout,

Given the enduring demand for gas, it is frequently said, surely we should opt for the lowest carbon intensity – and the carbon intensity of gas coming out of Cambo and Rosebank is around a third of the average LNG import.

That seems like a valid case. But it is chiefly based around the idea of persistent consumption. It fails to recognise that demand is also a curve that we can bend faster – still further accelerating renewables (and the good news is that this is already happening) and decarbonising our heating and transport. We hear relatively little, for example, from Truss about decreasing such demand. Her mantra is chiefly supply and growth.

When Sturgeon said that Cambo should not be given the green light, she also noted that she believed the field would not pass a rigorous climate assessment. We now have such an assessment in the form of a climate compatibility checkpoint, set to be applied to this new licensing round. This ought to be good news, but it reeks of greenwash for, one of the things that the UK government has done is to remove several of the tests from the checkpoint.

Among these is a test on the “global production gap”, which looks at whether the sum of all countries’ forecast oil and gas development is consistent with the agreement to limit temperature rises to 1.5C. The other test that has been scrapped looks at “Scope 3” emissions. These are those emissions released when the oil and gas is burnt in cars and power stations, or wherever it is used – rather than those created in its production.

We can’t afford to forget that we are part of a wider world – a global production. In 2021 the IEA advised that no further new gas, oil or coal development could take place if the world was to limit global heating to 1.5C. Yet here we are just a year later, with an explosion of new developments, not just here, but across the globe – and we are expected to believe that somehow, after creating them, we will find a way to get back on track to net zero.

Recently SNP Net Zero Secretary, Michael Matheson spoke out against the UK government’s expansion of development, saying, “unlimited extraction of fossil fuels is not consistent with our climate obligations”.

Will Sturgeon take this and her Cambo criticism further, and have the guts, even during this energy crisis, to condemn Rosebank too?