NICOLA Sturgeon has been accused of “deferring to Boris Johnson” on the future of oil and gas after failing to tell the Prime Minister to halt a controversial fossil fuel project.

After facing fierce criticism for her Government refusing to firmly oppose Shell and Siccar Point Energy’s plans for the Cambo oil field, near Shetland, the First Minister has written to Boris Johnson urging him to “reassess” the project and other oil and gas exploration in light of the latest climate warning from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

But the First Minister has been criticised for failing to tell the Prime Minister that the Cambo scheme should not go ahead, months before the UK Government hosts the critical COP26 conference in Glasgow – where leadership will be needed to salvage efforts to limit global warming below a dangerous tipping point.

READ MORE: Cambo field: Nicola Sturgeon tells Boris Johnson to 'reassess' oil and gas plans

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s climate and energy campaigner, Caroline Rance, said: “Faced with incredible pressure from people concerned about the climate impact of new oil and gas, the First Minister has rightly said the UK Government must review licenses for oil fields in light of the severity of the climate emergency.

“However, she has failed to actually state her Government’s opposition to Cambo or any new oil and gas.”

She added: “The Scottish Government’s own policy remains to encourage new oil exploration and drill for every last drop in the North Sea. If the First Minister wants to show leadership she must go further than calling on someone else to review their position.

"Nicola Sturgeon is deferring to Boris Johnson on the future of North Sea oil and gas, when she must take a bold stance against Cambo and the climate devastation it will unleash.

“The science on this is already crystal clear, burning fossil fuels is the key driver of this crisis so to avoid climate breakdown there can be no new licenses or developments, and existing production must be wound down over the next decade.“

READ MORE: UN IPCC report: Action needed to avert 'undermining Scotland's  climate credibility'

In her letter to Mr Johnson, Ms Sturgeon calls for a four-nations meeting ahead of COP26 to thrash out a joined-up strategy for eliminating carbon emissions.

Ms Rance added: “At the top of the agenda for the proposed four nations meeting should be to agree an end to all new oil and gas, a timetable for a managed phase out from the North Sea, coupled with increasing renewable energy across the UK, and beginning to deliver a just transition for oil and gas workers and affected communities.”

Sam Chetan-Welsh, political campaigner for Greenpeace UK, added: “Nicola Sturgeon is deferring to Boris Johnson to check the climate impact of Cambo, but until she makes her own stance clear this is just a PR exercise. 

“The experts couldn’t be clearer- humanity is at ‘code red’, and the last thing we can afford is a new oilfield which would pump out the equivalent emissions of 18 coal-fired power stations running for a year. 

“The First Minister must stop hiding behind Boris Johnson. If she wants to show leadership on climate she must clearly say: stop Cambo.”

Scottish Labour’s net zero spokesperson, Monica Lennon, who has previously appealed for the First Minister to show her opposition to the Cambo oil field, has labelled her intervention as “a baby step”.

She said: “Scottish Labour has been urging Nicola Sturgeon to get off the fence and oppose the Cambo oil field plans in the face of climate catastrophe.

READ MORE: Labour leader Keir Starmer backs 'hard-edged timetable' to end oil and gas extraction

“In the wake of growing pressure from grassroots campaigners, she has taken a baby step towards having a position. Now is not the time to "reassess". It's time for Nicola Sturgeon to firmly and loudly oppose Cambo, once and for all.”

Discussions are still taking place between the SNP and Scottish Greens over a cooperation agreement at Holyrood – with one potential stumbling block the parties’ differing timetables for ending fossil fuel extraction.

Scottish Greens climate spokesperson Mark Ruskell, said: “It is welcome to see the Scottish Government start to come off the fence when it comes to the Cambo oil field, but it is clear there is still far too many hopes pinned on the oil and gas industry to get us out of the climate emergency.

READ MORE: Union leaders demand oil and gas transition plans instead of political point-scoring

"The IPCC report is very clear that we cannot wait for the development of new technologies, we must listen to the UN secretary general and stop fossil fuel expansion entirely. That means revoking Cambo and no new oil and gas licenses whatsoever, with a just transition ensuring no worker is left behind.”

But the Scottish Conservatives have warned against the “dangerous influence” of the Greens on Government policy, accusing the First Minister of “willing to damage our oil and gas industry”.

The party’s net zero spokesperson, Liam Kerr, said: “Nicola Sturgeon is putting her nationalist alliance with the Greens ahead of Scotland’s economy.

“We’re already seeing the dangerous influence of the Greens and their hardline ideology on the SNP Government, even before the coalition of chaos has been rubber-stamped.

“The oil and gas sector supports over 100,000 Scottish jobs and the development of the Cambo field could create thousands more.

“However, Nicola Sturgeon is clearly willing to damage our oil and gas industry, throw away thousands of jobs and risk hikes to energy prices.”

He added: “Her anti-business approach is undermining Scotland's economic recovery from the pandemic.

“It’s a real shame the SNP Government are too busy virtue-signalling to work with the industry on the transition to renewables, as the UK Government are doing.

“Only the Scottish Conservatives will stand up for the economy of the North East and all of Scotland by delivering a sensible transition to net zero that protects jobs.”