FEARS have been raised about the future of Scotland’s oil and gas industry after controversial plans to open up a new oil field in the North Sea amid the climate crisis have been officially paused by the developer.

Conservatives blamed the decision on the “hostile” environment for the industry fostered by the SNP-Greens administration – but climate activists called for the UK and Scottish governments to now “end support for new oil and gas infrastructure”.

The industry body for the sector has insisted that “continued investment will be required” to avoid a reliance on imported fossil fuels.

Siccar Point Energy, which hopes to develop the Cambo oil field near Shetland has confirmed it cannot continue on the “originally planned timescale” after Shell withdrew from the proposals due to concerns over the economic justification.

Business leaders have issued a warning over the potential impact on jobs, particularly in the north east – without a plan to transition fossil fuels workers into renewable sectors.

Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) supply chain and operations director, Katy Heidenreich, said: “This is a commercial decision and while we can't comment on specific projects, we know that continued investment will be required to avoid increasing reliance on imported energy, protect security of supply and deliver a homegrown energy transition."

Statistics show that in 2020, the UK exported almost 40 million 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.

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.

But the UK imported approximately 46.9 million metric tons of crude oil and natural gas liquids in 2020, a year the industry was wound down significantly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jonathan Roger, CEO of Siccar Point Energy, which has a 70 per cent stake in the project, said: “Following Shell’s announcement last week, we are in a position where the Cambo project cannot progress on the originally planned timescale.

“We are pausing the development while we evaluate the next steps.

“We continue to believe Cambo is a robust project that can play an important part in the UK’s energy security providing homegrown energy supply and reducing carbon intensive imports, whilst supporting a just transition.”

The Conservatives have blamed the decision on the SNP-Greens Government, accusing ministers of holding "shameful, ignorant, anti-business views".

Scottish Conservative net zero, energy and transport spokesperson, Liam Kerr, said: “The hostile SNP-Green stance on projects like Cambo is making it less attractive for energy companies to invest in Scottish oil and gas.

“This announcement from Siccar Point Energy is extremely concerning for the oil and gas industry.

“It’s clear the shameful, ignorant, anti-business views of this coalition are now not only jeopardising our ability to meet net zero targets but also abandoning thousands of jobs in the sector."

“Without investment in these projects, we risk becoming even more dependent on foreign imports rather than making use of Scotland’s domestic reserves of oil and gas.

“We warned bringing the extremist Greens into government would damage Scotland’s economy and the effects of this are now being seen.”

Scottish Greens climate spokesperson, Mark Ruskell, labelled the Cambo development a “reckless” proposal.

He added: "We already have far more fossil fuel than we can afford to burn, and the public recognise that to expand further would end any hope of addressing the climate emergency.

“The path to net zero lies not in vast amounts of continued subsidy for an oil and gas industry that is already cutting jobs, but investing in stable jobs in industries like renewable energy, such as the new facility at Nigg.

"So while the Tories have been scaremongering, Greens in government have established a transition fund for the north east and Moray to do exactly that.”

Sam Chetan-Welsh, political campaigner at Greenpeace UK said that “both the Westminster and Scottish Government now need to end support for new oil and gas infrastructure".

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: "It's welcome news that the Cambo oilfield has been put on pause. The next step must be to press stop.

"The climate emergency is already causing untold poverty and hunger around the world; drilling for more oil would only make things worse."

A UK Government spokesperson said: “While this is ultimately a commercial decision to be taken independently by Siccar Point Energy, we remain committed to our domestic offshore oil and gas sector, which continues to keep us warm, fuel our cars and strengthen our security of supply while we grow our renewables sector.

“Without a domestic source of gas, we would be even more reliant on foreign imports.”