THE SNP Government has issued its strongest opposition to fossil fuels yet after a minister insisted the UK Government should not issue new oil and gas licences.

The UK Government is opening up more than 100 new oil and gas licences in the North Sea as part of its energy security strategy.

The Scottish Government has long-held an opposition to unlimited expansion of drilling for fossil fuels.

After initially telling the UK Government to “reassess” new applications, Nicola Sturgeon raised eyebrows last year when she told MSPs that she did not think the Cambo oil field “should get the green light”.

When the UK Government announced it was opening up new licences, Net Zero Secretary Michael Matheson reacted by saying it was “alarming that the UK Government appears to believe that licensing of more than 100 new oil and gas fields will not materially impact the ability of the UK to reach net zero by 2050”. 

He added that it was "reckless to believe that this approach is in anyway consistent with our climate obligations”.

But now SNP Environment Minister Mairi McAllan has insisted that “we do not agree with the UK Government issuing new oil and gas licences”.

She added: “We don’t agree that is a viable answer to the energy cost crisis or to the climate crisis that we’re facing.

“The answer, in fact, to both of these is the rapid investment and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“We’ve also made clear our view that the proposed climate compatibility test from the UK Government is not fit for purpose and that before any development takes place, robust, stringent climate compatibility tests, including both domestic and international compatibility with Paris (Agreement) should be introduced.

“Whilst the UK looks to licence oil and gas, Scotland looks to the expansion of offshore wind.”

Scottish Greens MSP, Mark Ruskell, has called on the UK Government to reject the Rosebank oil field plans which would largely export crude oil outside of the UK.

Mr Ruskell said: “The UK Government is taking an utterly reckless and hypocritical approach to our environment. It says that we need to transition away from fossil fuels, but is granting over 100 new oil and gas exploration licences.

“If the Rosebank licence is agreed it will be terrible for the UK’s reputation and devastating for our planet. It would totally undermine all of our climate commitments.

“COP27 saw one very positive step forward on addressing loss and damage, but it also saw two giant steps on fossil fuels, with a clear failure to commit to any phasing out of oil and gas. It has effectively killed any hope of 1.5 degrees.”

Environmental campaigners have welcomed the Scottish Government's toughened opposition to new fossil fuels projects.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s oil and gas campaigner, Freya Aitchison, said: “Mairi McAllan is completely right to say that new oil and gas extraction isn’t the answer to the cost of living crisis or the climate crisis.

"Millions of families are being pushed into fuel poverty by greedy oil companies for short-term profits. Meanwhile climate science is clear that there can be no new oil and gas licensing if we are to avoid truly catastrophic warming.

"This is the furthest the Scottish Government has gone to date in its opposition to new licensing, and ministers must now pressure the UK Government to abandon its climate-wrecking oil expansion plans, starting by rejecting the plans to develop Rosebank.

"The Scottish Government must cement this position in the forthcoming Energy Strategy, putting an end date on fossil fuels and setting out the framework for a managed and just phase out of oil and gas within this decade.

“The Scottish Government’s opposition to new oil and gas extraction will make Rosebank a more risky investment, so Equinor should really think again.

"If Rosebank were allowed to go ahead, it would produce the same amount of climate-wrecking pollution as the annual emissions of 28 low-income countries combined.

"Approving it would fly in the face of climate science, which is clear that allowing any new fossil fuel extraction will take us past globally agreed climate targets."