A SCOTTISH Government minister has rubbished fears that oil and gas will need to be imported if new fossil fuel projects do not go ahead as his colleague accused Conservatives of “scaremongering” after a company pulled the plug on its support for a new development.

Patrick Harvie, the co-leader of the Scottish Greens, was speaking after Shell announced it was pulling out of the controversial Cambo oil field plans.

Siccar Point Energy, which leads the proposal, has stressed that the project, near Shetland, is still expected to go ahead.

Mr Harvie, who is also a Scottish Government minister responsible for zero carbon buildings, tenants’ rights and active travel, was pressed over the implications of a wind down of the oil and gas industry, as is set to be an inevitable move as part of efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

READ MORE: Cambo oil field: Shell pulls out of development over economic case

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Mr Harvie said it was “good news” that Shell have pulled out, but warned “there’s still a risk that other investors will come in”, adding that the project looks less likely to go ahead in the short-term.

He insisted “it’s absurd to suggest that our transition to a net zero economy depends on drilling for ever more oil and gas”.

Mr Harvie stressed that the political landscape in Scotland has now changed its tune with only the “far right”, pointing to the Conservatives, supporting further unlimited extraction of fossil fuels.

Fears have been raised by the oil and gas industry, as well as the Scottish Conservatives that if new oil and gas projects are not approved, the UK will be forced to import fossil fuels from overseas in order to keep up with demand.

But Mr Harvie said: “This notion that oil and gas production is necessary for our own domestic consumption needs and otherwise we have to import it is spurious.

“The relationship between domestic production and domestic consumption is already weak. And even if it was strong, even if we only produced oil and gas for our own domestic needs, if every country with oil and gas resources around the world was to use that argument, then all of the oil and gas around the world would be exploited.

“We have far more of the stuff than we can afford to burn.”

READ MORE: Calls for Sturgeon and Johnson to set date for ending oil and gas demand

Chris Stark, the CEO of the government’s independent advisers, the Climate Change Committee, told the Herald on Sunday last month that future demand for oil and gas alone was not justification for opening a new oil field at Cambo.

He added that the oil and gas industry will be “sorely mistaken” if it believes demand for fossil fuels will not reduce.

Statistics show that in 2020, the UK exported millions of tonnes of oil overseas, including 17.5 million tonnes to the Netherlands, 5.4 million tonnes to China and 4.8 million tonnes to Germany – suggesting the domestic economy would not be more reliant on imports if new fossil fuels projects do not go ahead.

Figures also show that the UK’s oil reserves were at 4.4 billion barrels at the end of 2020 – thought to be enough to sustain production until 2030 without the need for additional exploration.

Mr Harvie stressed that it was “not optional” to ignore the impact burning fossil fuels is having on the climate crisis, adding that “this is not a political choice”.

He added that he was “sick and tired by being told” by fossil fuels producers “that funded a climate denial movement” to “slow down, you’re going too fast”, when he said “we could have made those changes slowly and calmly if we’d started 20 or 30 years ago”.

The Greens co-leader insisted that many working in the oil and gas industry have woken up to the realisation that “those jobs are not going to be there for the next generation”.

READ MORE: Climate activists 'disappointed' with SNP's oil and gas plans despite Greens influence

He added: “What we need for those communities and the whole country is investment in the transition, investment in the sustainable industries that will actually create prosperity and job for the long term.

“That is what the Scottish Government is doing with its just transition fund. I wish to goodness that the UK Government was putting its financial muscle into that transition as well instead of giving one more roll of the fossil fuel dice.”

But Mr Harvie’s strong words have led to condemnation by the Scottish Conservatives who have accused him of “insulting” north east oil and gas workers and claimed jobs are being put at risk.

Scottish Conservative net zero spokesperson, Liam Kerr, said: "The Cambo project not going ahead would risk Scottish jobs, risk our energy supply, and risk our ability to meet net zero targets.

"Importing energy from abroad would be more expensive for the public and would do more harm to the planet than using the energy on our doorstep.

"It's shameful to hear a Scottish Government minister cheering on potential job losses across the north east of Scotland that would actually hurt our ability to meet net zero targets.

"Patrick Harvie wrongly brands supporters of Scotland's oil and gas industry as ‘hard right’, which is insulting to the tens of thousands of workers in our North Sea sector.

"Nicola Sturgeon must distance her government from these comments quickly.

"Her opposition to future oil and gas projects seems to be discouraging investment already. It won't help if she lets government ministers take pot shots at everyone who works in oil and gas.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon finally says Cambo oil field 'shouldn't get the green light'

"We warned bringing the extremist Greens into government would hurt Scotland's economy and, already, it's damaging business confidence and risking jobs.

"This is the first time there has been a Scottish Government minister who wants fewer Scottish jobs and less investment in Scotland."

But Scottish Greens climate spokesperson Mark Ruskell has accused the Tories of “scaremongering”.

He added: “Scotland has the potential to lead Europe in offshore renewables, with 25% of the continent's offshore renewable energy potential.

"So, in the wake of this announcement it’s clear that the UK Government must divert support that has previously been targeted at oil and gas toward industries of the future.

“It is vital that work on building a just transition for workers in Scotland’s energy industry begins now. We know that hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created in Scotland’s renewable future, and there's no time to waste."