The Scottish Secretary has insisted there should continue to be oil exploration projects in the North Sea.

Alister Jack MP also condemned comments made by the leader of the Scottish Greens on oil drilling as “disgraceful”.

Patrick Harvie, who is also a Holyrood minister, said previously that it was only people on the “hard right” who now support future oil and gas projects.

Mr Jack, speaking to MPs at the Scottish Affairs Committee today, criticised his remarks and said it was necessary to continue drilling for oil as the demand for fossil fuels was not going to disappear overnight.

The cabinet minister said: “I think that remark is, as quoted, disgraceful.

“I support future drilling and I'm not a hard right extremist, just to put that on record.

“We have an oil and gas industry that is in transition - and the key is transition - and we will get to net zero by 2050.”

He explained: “ We need gas to make blue hydrogen and other products; we need oil for the petrochemicals industry.

“The idea that oil suddenly stops would kill our economy.

“We will still need oil for the petrochemicals industry to produce many products that our economy relies on, not least instruments for the NHS. There are an awful lot of instruments in the NHS - tubing and PPE, and many other things - that comes as a petrochemical base, and we can't just turn that off.”

Mr Jack then said he hoped the controversial Cambo oil field, which Shell withdrew support from last week, would still go ahead.

He said: “ You know we have to be responsible for that. And regarding the Cambo oilfield…I still think it's better that we develop Cambo than we bring in that oil from another country. That's less efficient, we should get it domestically and support jobs in the Northeast.”

Last week ti was announced that Shell was withdrawing its support for the Cambo project, raising doubts about its economic viability.

The oill giant owned 30 per cent of the project, while developers Siccar Point owned 70. 

It is still considering how to take on the project off the coast of Shetland. 

In response to Shell pulling out of the project, Mr Harvie said it was "good news" and that it was only people on the "hard right" who still believed there should be new oil drilling projects.

He was accused by the Tories of "cheering on jobs losses".