FIVE former ministers from across the political divide have called on the SNP Government to back the North Sea oil and gas sector – while Westminster has been urged to pledge support for carbon capture technology.

But the move has been criticised by environmental campaigners who have insisted that claiming fossil fuels can help solve the climate crisis is comparable to "backing the tobacco industry as a way to cure cancer".

Former home secretary Amber Rudd, alongside Labour, SNP and LibDem former government frontbenchers, has signed a pledged called for UK and Scottish ministers to support the fossil fuels industry.

The cross-party group will sign the declaration in Aberdeen today, stressing the importance of the industry to the push for net zero and claiming the “continued success” of oil and gas producers in meeting targets.

The UK Government has set a target of reaching net zero by 2050, while the Scottish Government hopes to do so by 2045.

Tory ministers will open up a new round of new oil and has licensing in the autumn as part of its emery security strategy – but the Scottish Government has focused on ramping up renewable energy ahead of its delayed energy strategy to be published in the autumn.

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Along with Ms Rudd – who served in Theresa May’s government and as energy secretary under David Cameron – are Lib Dem MP and former Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, former energy ministers Brian Wilson and Charles Hendry and former Scottish energy minister and current SNP MSP Fergus Ewing.

The former home secretary was appointed earlier this year to a position on the board of Centrica – the owner of British Gas – which has interests in the oil and gas sector.

Mr Ewing, who chairs the Scottish Parliament's cross-party group on oil and gas, has been a thorn in the side of the Scottish Government with several outspoken interventions in support of the continued use of fossil fuels.

The Inverness and Nairn MSP stressed the importance of the North Sea, stating: “We will need oil and gas for some time to come and if we cease production here we would have to import far more carbon-intensive gas … so it would make things worse, not better.

“But, above all, carbon capture and storage cannot be delivered without the skills, expertise, the workforce, the supply chain in the oil and gas industry to do the drilling, the reservoir management, the pipeline construction and maintenance, and perhaps, above all, working in the unforgiving North Sea environment safely.

“Only the oil and gas industry can do that.”

In signing the document, the group said that “our oil and gas sector developed since the 1970s, and its businesses, workforce and infrastructure (the re-purposing of which greatly facilitates a number of the carbon storage projects) are of world class and constitute a huge asset to these islands.”

It added: “The sector deserves the full support of all Governments in the UK as an essential contributor to the achievement of net zero targets.”

The declaration goes on to say that the skills in the oil and gas sector will be needed to aid the creation of cleaner energy, as well as pushing for an increase in carbon capture technology.

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Along with the declaration, the five also pressed the UK and Scottish Governments to act.

“The Scottish Government in its forthcoming energy strategy support our oil and gas sector to provide a global lead to the process of decarbonisation of their operations, and recognise its continued success as an essential prerequisite of achieving net zero emission targets, for the reasons set out above,” they said.

“Thus, providing full support to the sector for its continued operations over the duration of the just transition in line with the North Sea Transition Deal, with emissions to be halved by 2030.”

They went on to urge the UK Government to “accelerate its efforts to promote carbon capture and storage”, while pressing all the UK’s administrations to work together “so that the complex regulatory landscape is capable of jointly and swiftly responding and enabling industry to deliver net-zero and, in particular, clean power to platforms and carbon capture storage”.

A spokeswoman for the UK Government said: “The Government has repeatedly said that energy security is our ultimate priority, including supporting the oil and gas sector and its transition.

“This is why the British Energy Security Strategy sets out how we will accelerate security of supply through cheap renewables, betting big on new nuclear and maximising domestic production of gas in the North Sea.

“Through our landmark North Sea Transition Deal we are backing the decarbonisation of the oil and gas industry while supporting tens of thousands of jobs across Scotland and the wider UK, ensuring high-skilled workers are not left behind.”

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While a Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government’s position is clear that unlimited extraction of fossil fuels is not consistent with our climate obligations, a position supported by the UK and Scottish Government’s statutory advisers on climate change.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest reports show that the impacts of climate change are even worse than previously thought and that business as usual is not an option.

“We are equally clear that the oil and gas sector plays an important role in our economy, and that a bright future lies ahead for a revitalised North Sea in supporting a net zero energy system.

“Our oil and gas infrastructure and highly skilled workforce have long been at the forefront of energy innovation.

“That is why we are committed to a just transition that supports those currently employed in oil and gas to capitalise on the employment opportunities of net zero energy.

Ami McCarthy, political campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “Are these guys joking?

"The Government has been falling over itself to support oil and gas companies, granting them massive tax breaks and approving a destructive new gas field - meanwhile allowing fuel poverty to soar.

“The idea that supporting fossil fuel companies would somehow help tackle the climate crisis is like backing the tobacco industry as a way to cure cancer. 

“If the Government really cared about a thriving North Sea industry and long term sustainable employment, and about tackling the cost of living or the climate crisis, they’d prioritise a just transition to renewable power, boosting our supply chains, upgrading the grid and bringing secure green jobs to Scotland and the north east of England.”