AN SNP minister has insisted Scotland is "on the cusp of a truly astonishing green jobs revolution" despite his Government only bringing forward less than one fifth of the promised positions by 2020.

MSPs clashed at Holyrood after Shell announced it was pulling out of its involvement in plans to open a new oil field at Cambo near Shetland due to economic reasons – which a Greens MSP has described as “the start of a managed transition” away from fossil fuels.

But the Scottish Government has been criticised after a promise of 130,000 green jobs by 2020 has only resulted in little more than 20,000 people being hired.

SNP Just Transition Minister Richard Lochhead told MSPs that a just transition for the North Sea oil and gas sector is “not about simple and easy on and off switches”, insisting that “communities across the country will see a fair transition to net zero”.

Mr Lochhead said: “Anyone who thinks we can switch off our use of fossil fuels for instance, overnight, doesn't live in the real world – and likewise, anyone who thinks change is too difficult, and we should continue with business as usual also doesn't live in the real world – the real world which is endangered by global warming.

“Our net zero ambitions will generate a green jobs bonanza – in fact, it's already happening and at pace. We have the potential to create hundreds of thousands of new green jobs from hydrogen to offshore wind to decarbonising heat in our buildings.

“We are on the cusp of a truly astonishing green jobs revolution in every corner of Scotland.”

Mr Lochhead also accused the Conservatives of contradicting themselves by calling for “unlimited extraction of fossil fuels”, while at the same time “complaining the Scottish Government's transition is not going fast enough”.

The minister pointed to Tory MSP Graham Simpson taking part in a rally at COP26.

He said: “You're willing to talk the talk when it comes to walk the walk and the cold reality of taking difficult decisions, you're full of double standards and hypocrisy.”

Mr Simpson denied he has any double standards.

But Conservative MSP Tess White, warned SNP ministers that “decarbonising our economy doesn't mean shutting down the oil and gas industry as soon as possible”.

She added: “You simply can't turn off the taps and you can't ignore demand which is set to continue until at least 2050.

“Instead, decarbonising our economy requires careful planning and collaboration between governments, businesses, workers, investors and civil society.”

The Tory MSP claimed that the focus “isn't about managing the industry's decline”, but is instead “managing its diversification to greener and more sustainable energy sources so that it can thrive for decades to come”.

She added that “the oil and gas industry is not a villain” as she highlighted a warning that “politicians risk creating an adverse investment environment for the sector”, stressing that “there is nothing just or fair about that”.

Labour’s net zero spokesperson, Colin Smyth, pointed to the potential renewables jobs that will need to replace oil and gas opportunities during a move to a low carbon economy.

He said: “A decade on from the SNP pledge of 130,000 green jobs by 2020, the number directly employed in the low carbon and renewable economy is just 21,400 – the lowest since 2014.

“If a transition to a low carbon economy is left largely to market forces, as the Conservatives want, we will repeat the devastating social and economic impact experienced by our communities when the coal mines closed.”

The Greens’ Mark Ruskell warned that the UK Government’s maximum economic recovery of oil, a position no longer supported by the Scottish ministers, ”drags investment away from renewables”, adding that “it creates a future cliff edge for workers”.

He added: “And it also of course, critically undermines the global UN climate negotiations - making it impossible to ask countries to adopt the language of phasing out coal when we won't phase out our own oil and gas.

“Now this policy of maximum economic recovery could lead to a future sudden collapse in jobs where climate impacts lead to high carbon price, shutting down production.”

Mr Ruskell said it was “absurd to say that stopping Cambo would mean turning off the taps on North Sea oil and gas”.

He added: “There are already 6.5 billion barrels of oil in over 200 fields already licenced in the North Sea - enough to see us through years and years of energy transition and it's clear that Cambo would be disastrous.

“The emissions from burning all 800 million barrels of oil in the field would be 10 times the annual emissions of Scotland lasting well beyond 2045 When we're meant to meant to be a net zero country.

“The whole operation is designed to need just 100 150 staff who could end up being drafted in from anywhere in the world.

“Calling a halt to Cambo and other new fields is the start of a managed transition rather than a future based on the economic chaos of stranded assets that we cannot afford to burn.”