SCOTLAND should lead the world by transitioning away from oil and gas now despite fears that energy bills will continue to soar by relying on imported gas, according to Scottish Greens' co leader Lorna Slater.

Ms Slater, who is a minister in the Scottish Government, claims the North Sea energy sector should start an immediate transition from fossil fuels as the nation ramps up renewable energy production.

But with gas prices rocketing, The Herald asked Ms Slater to respond to the argument that with Scotland being a small country - and therefore not a massive contributor to C02 emissions in global terms - why it should scale back on fossil fuels while much larger polluters such as Russia and China were not.

She said: "I'm kind of appalled when people bring that argument. It is selfish and shortsighted.

The Herald:

NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenburg 

"Scotland has 25 per cent of all of Europe off shore renewable resources. We are in a position to really lead on this. What Scotland does matters and countries that don't have all our resources still have to stop using fossil fuels, but they will have a much harder time."

Household energy bills across the UK are expected to rise by a typical £693 a year from April when regulator Ofgem confirmed the steepest ever increase to the new price cap level. There are fears over further price rises amid any fall-out on the energy market of the current Russian stand off with Ukraine.

The diplomatic crisis has prompted NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenburg to warn that Europe is too reliant on Russian gas and must diversify its supply to avoid being cut off amid the Ukrainian crisis - should Russia retaliate to any sanctions imposed on it by the UK or EU.

The Herald asked Ms Slater whether the NATO chief had a point that Europe should have more of its own fossil fuels and be less reliant on Russian imports, especially given the soaring energy prices.

She was asked would householders in Scotland not have cheaper energy if fossil fuels were being extracted from fields, such as Cambo, off Shetland.

The Herald:

The Scottish Greens oppose the exploitation of any new oil fields, such as Cambo, off Shetland. 

"I don't think his assumptions are correct," she said and blamed former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron for failing to give sufficient support to the renewable energy sector during his period in office.

"If he had at that time continued the investment in renewable energy, we wouldn't be so dependent on oil and gas whatever it source...Our dependency on gas is the problem and the solution is to properly develop renewable resources."

She added that while Scotland had a wealth of renewable resources - in term off shore and onshore wind as well as tidal and hydro power - with energy policy reserved, UK Government policy was currently "geared against" Scotland reaching its renewable energy potential.

Ms Slater underlined that both the Greens and SNP support a "just transition" away from oil and gas.

She added: "We don't intend to inflict hardship on anybody. We need those jobs [in renewable energy] and other industries to grow...but the good news is there is that potential."

But she was pressed on whether current policy was making the country too reliant on imported gas and if North Sea oil was exploited more, householders would have lower bills.

She said: "It isn't a correct assumption. Much of our oil and gas is exported and is not used domestically. So the equation isn't as simple as that would try and make it out...It is absolutely as mistake to hold onto fossil fuels longer than we need to. Not just as it is dangerous to life on earth but because it ties us into the volatility of oil and gas prices which are out of our control."

Pressed on Stoltenburg's arguments about diversifying the supply of gas  - potentially exploiting more North Sea oil fields, she said: "He couldn't be more wrong."

The Herald:

The Scottish Greens say Scotland can and should lead the way in offshore renewable energy production.

Europe currently depends on Russia for around a third of its gas supplies and any interruption would exacerbate an existing energy crisis caused by a shortage.

Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Net Zero and Transport Liam Kerr: "Even in the midst of an energy crisis, Lorna Slater cannot put her extremist ideologies to one side.

“Alongside her nationalist colleagues she is willing to throw the 100,000 workers in Scotland’s oil and gas industry under the bus, which would be devastating for our economy. She’s even willing to dismiss the views of the NATO’s chief, rather than accept we shouldn’t have this over-reliance on foreign imports, particularly right now."