NICOLA Sturgeon has confirmed the Scottish Government is “considering joining” an alliance of nations committed to ending drilling for oil and gas “in the not too distant future”.

But the First Minister has faced criticism after Scotland was not confirmed as a founding member of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) – formally announced by the Danish and Costa Rican governments at COP26.

Alongside Denmark and Costa Rica, the BOGA features France, Greenland, Quebec, Ireland, Sweden and Wales as core members and California and New Zealand as associate members.

The BOGA will seek a managed phase-out of oil and gas production to align with Paris Agreement goals but none of the members has a substantial production of oil and gas.

If Scotland does join the coalition, it would be the first nation to do so that heavily relies on oil and gas for its energy mix.

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On Wednesday, Boris Johnson said he would “look at what Denmark and Costa Rica are proposing” but insisted his focus was on halting the use of coal across the globe – with the UK snubbing an invitation to join the BOGA.

Danish climate minister Dan Jørgensen held talks with Ms Sturgeon and Greens minister Lorna Slater at Bute House last month where the BOGA was discussed.

Speaking at the unveiling on BOGA on Thursday, Mr Jørgensen confirmed that he was in “close dialogue” with Ms Sturgeon’s administration.

Mr Jørgensen said: “We are in dialogue with many other countries that are not here today, and I promised not to mention any of them except one that I have promised to mention and that is Scotland.

“We are in close dialogue with them and I hope we will also be able to name other countries within the next few days.”

He added: “There has been a lot of interest in the alliance at this COP.

“Now it's important for us to say that we hope that those who are interested will do exactly that, sparking conversation, hopefully inspire us and that this alliance will grow.”

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Speaking to journalists at COP26, the First Minister confirmed that talks were underway for the Scottish Government to join the alliance, but stressed the reliance on oil and gas made a decision more difficult.

She said: “There’s different categories of membership and if we’re going to join an organisation, we need to do a rigorous assessment about if we were to join, what category of membership would best suit our circumstances. That’s the process we’re going through.

“I would expect that we may well associate ourselves with it in the not too distant future.”

But Ms Sturgeon bluntly insisted that “we do need to move beyond oil and gas as quickly as is feasible”.

The Herald: First Minister Nicola SturgeonFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon

She added: “For somebody like me, the statement is the easy bit. What we’ve got to do is make sure we do that in a way that is just and fair so it doesn’t leave us more dependent on imported oil and gas and crucially doesn’t leave 100,000 people in Scotland who work in that sector on the economic scrapheap.”

The First Minister said that Scotland not being a founding member of the BOGA was “not a missed opportunity” – while she maintained that the decision for Wales to join the coalition is less complex than for Scotland.

She said: “Wales is in a very different position to Scotland when it comes to oil and gas.

“I welcome their commitment but we are in a different position in terms of the size and reality of our oil and gas sector so that decision about what level of membership is obviously a different process and assessment for us.”

But campaigners have accused the First Minister of turning back on her pledge to “accelerate as far and as fast as we can the transition away from fossil fuels”.

Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, Richard Dixon, claimed that “refusing to join the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance is a failure to follow through on her Government’s recent change of position to no longer support unlimited oil and gas extraction”.

He added: “Instead of siding with oil and gas companies, the Scottish Government must ensure that people and communities working in oil and gas are at the heart of planning a fair and fast phase out of fossil fuels, whilst scaling up renewable energy to help create decent green jobs.

"It is great to see this alliance putting the focus on fossil fuel phase out but it's concerning to see many major big oil and gas producing nations unwilling to sign up.”

The Scottish Greens had been attempting to put pressure on their Scottish Government co-operation partner to join the BOGA.

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Scottish Greens climate spokesperson, Mark Ruskell, stressed that there “has been a disappointing lack of focus on oil and gas” at COP26, despite its contribution to global warming.

He added: “I have raised the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance with ministers so I am glad Scotland is in discussions to be part of this progressive alliance which is only going to grow over time. It’s a shame we are not signed up on day one, but I will continue to push ministers to be part of this critical initiative.

“Determining how much fossil fuels Scotland needs and how much we can afford to burn under the Paris Agreement should provide a starting point to draw a line under future oil and gas development in Scotland.

“Denmark and Costa Rica should be applauded for their global leadership, two small progressive countries making concrete commitments to deal with one of the hardest issues we face.”

But the Scottish Conservatives warned that Ms Sturgeon suggesting Scotland could phase out oil and gas use, likely to be a key part of efforts to become net zero by 2045, was an admission the Scottish Government is “abandoning Scotland’s oil and gas industry”.

Scottish Conservative net zero and energy spokesperson, Liam Kerr, added: “Beyond Oil and Gas are committed to a dramatic shift away from fossil fuels.

“By opening discussions with them, Nicola Sturgeon is signalling her intent to put thousands of Scottish jobs on a cliff-edge.”

OGUK CEO Deirdre Michie added: “The UK's offshore oil and gas industry is changing – we are in a unique position and are helping aid the energy transition underway.

"While we still need oil and gas, it is far better we meet our own demand with our own resources rather than importing it, which can be far worse for the environment.

“Putting an arbitrary end to supply and production would damage livelihoods across Scotland – the same communities whose skills will be vital in helping us achieve a low-carbon economy.”