A SENIOR UK Government minister has suggested that Nicola Sturgeon’s administration may want to reprioritise future funding for the North Sea oil and gas sector into other areas of the economy.

Michael Gove has told MSPs that the UK and Scottish governments are likely to be at odds over future energy policy – claiming the UK strategy will “secure the future of oil and gas”.

But the SNP Government has insisted that despite £300bn from the North Sea having benefitted the Treasury since the 1970s, UK ministers have "ignored our repeated calls" to match investment for the north east and labelled a key Scottish carbon capture cluster project missing out on funding as "illogical".

The move comes after the General-Secretary of the UN yesterday put oil and gas giants "on notice" after a stark new report set out the dire consequences of continuing to burn fossil fuels on the climate crisis.

The UK Government has set out its North Sea transition deal which will provide up to £16bn by 2030 for “new energy technologies”. The plan pledges “an absolute reduction in production emissions of 10% in 2025, 25% in 2027, and 50% in 2030 on the pathway to net-zero by 2050” for the oil and gas sector, compared to 2018 levels.

READ MORE: IPCC Report: Oil and gas giants 'on notice' after dire UN climate analysis

The Scottish Government is due to publish its updated energy strategy in the spring and is pursuing a ramping up of renewables and other low carbon technologies such as hydrogen to replace a phasing out of oil and gas by the middle of the century.

The UK Government has committed to become net zero by 2050, while as part of that ambition, Scotland has pledged to end its contribution to the climate crisis by 2045.

Energy is largely reserved to the UK Government, but the Scottish Government holds planning powers that essentially allows SNP ministers to veto large energy projects and means nuclear power developments can be halted in Scotland, in line with SNP and Greens policy.

Mr Gove, who alongside his role as UK Levelling Up Minister is responsible for inter-governmental relations between Boris Johnson’s administration and the devolved nations, has told MSPs that future energy policy is an area “there might be a divergence” between Holyrood and Westminster in the coming years.

He said: “My own view is that there’s a reason why BEIS exists as it does as a UK-wide department.

“Energy security, for sombre reasons which we’re aware of, really matters. There are legitimate divergent views about how to achieve that.”

He added: “I think that the emphasis on future investment in the oil and gas sector in the North Sea – there is a difference there and I know that in the future that the UK Government will want to continue significant investment in the oil and gas sector, continued investment in the north east, in Orkney and in Shetland – in order to secure the future of the oil and gas sector as part of a transition.

“I’m sure there will be ministers in the Scottish Government who would argue that some of that investment might be better prioritised elsewhere.

“That will be a fair disagreement on which we would conclude, but on almost every other area we could reach constructive approach and agreement.”

The Scottish Government has refuted the suggestion from Mr Gove.

A spokesperson said: "The North Sea has a critical role to play in our transition to a net zero economy and we are undertaking a programme of work on Scotland’s future energy requirements, ensuring an approach that supports and protects our energy security and our highly skilled workforce, through the Energy Transition Fund, the Green Jobs fund and Scotland’s £500m Just Transition Fund for the North East and Moray.

"Despite the £300bn that has flown to the Treasury from North Sea oil since the 1970s, the UK Government has so far ignored our repeated calls to match our North East Transition Fund.

“The UK Government’s decision not to give the Scottish cluster clear and definitive track-1 status is illogical. We stand ready with up to £80 million of funding to support the Scottish cluster to develop carbon capture and storage in Scotland. We continue to call on the UK Government to work with us, and to provide the certainty and support required to accelerate the Scottish cluster project.”