SNP ministers are considering speeding up ending Scotland’s reliance on oil and gas after analysis found North Sea stocks will run out in the next 20 years without intervention.

The Scottish Government will also tout holding “a presumption against new exploration” for North Sea oil and gas – pitting SNP ministers on a collision course with the UK Government over expanding the declining industry.

The UK Government has opened another licensing round for North Sea oil and gas exploration.

Scottish ministers have published their delayed new energy strategy, alongside a just transition plan for energy workers.

The Scottish Government's strategy puts a focus on scaling up renewables and boosting the number of green jobs.

SNP Energy and Net Zero Secretary, Michael Matheson said the Scottish Government is consulting on whether the decline in North Sea oil and gas should be accelerated to take place ahead of 2050.

But the North Sea oil and gas sector has been left "concerned" by the suggestion that the industry's decline could be ramped up.

Meanwhile, the strategy has been criticised by climate campaigners, who have warned ministers have "shied away from taking the big decisions we know are needed" such as setting an end date for oil and gas use.

READ MORE: Scottish Government's delayed energy strategy to tackle demand for oil and gas

The strategy bluntly points out the Scottish Government is considering, in order to "support the fastest possible and most effective just transition" away from fossil fuels, whether "there should be a presumption against new exploration for oil and gas".

Mr Matheson told MSPs that Scotland faces “a pivotal point” in its transition to net zero, pointing to a move to a “decarbonised, affordable and secure energy system”.

He told Holyrood that the vision will “significantly scale up renewable energy production” and “secure continued and increased investment in the net zero economy”.

Under the plans, the Scottish Government aims to boost renewable electricity capacity from the current 13.4GW to 33.4GW by 2030 which could provide around half of the country's current demand.

The plan also reaffirms a previous commitment to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032 and reduction in car kilometres by 2030.

The document also points to an ambition for 5GW of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen power by 2030, and 25GW by 2045, when the country is due to end its contribution to the climate crisis by becoming net zero.

Mr Matheson said this would lead to “more jobs” and “growing supply chains” as well as “thriving communities”.

He told MSPs that the number of green jobs would soar from the 17,000 in 2019 to 77,000 by 2050 under the plans.

Turning to the declining oil and gas sector, Mr Matheson acknowledged it “has played an important role in our economy” as he pointed to the first results of independent research on the sector first announced in 2021.

READ MORE: Calls for UK and Scottish governments to set date for ending oil and gas demand

He stressed that "our previous policy position of maximum economic recovery, is no longer appropriate" due to the urgency to tackle the climate crisis.

He added: “As an increasingly mature basin, production in the North Sea is expected to be around one third of 1999 levels by 2035 and less than 3% of the 1999 peak by 2050.

“That projection takes account of the remaining potential development in the North Sean and is without any political decision to reduce consumption due to the climate emergency.

“This means that domestic production will effectively end within the next 20 years if we do nothing.

“This draft strategy is consulting on whether we should act faster than this.”

Mr Matheson added: “Whatever people’s position on the pace at which we move away from fossil fuels is, a failure to act now to deliver a just transformation of our energy system would be to neglect our energy security, the future of our economy and risk the kind of damage to industrial communities we saw in the 1980s.

“Whilst we do not have the power to influence offshore oil and gas extraction and exploration, we are seeking views on a more robust climate compatibility checkpoint, including for oil and gas fields that are already licensed but not developed and on a presumption of no new exploration in the North Sea.”

Jenny Stanning, industry body Offshore Energy UK's external relations director, said: "We are concerned at the statement's suggestion of accelerating the decline in oil and gas production.

“Scotland gets 79% of its total energy from oil and gas according to its latest official figures.

"Across the UK about 24 million homes (85% of the total) rely on gas boilers for heat and we get 42% of our electricity from gas.

"We also have 32 million vehicles running on petrol and diesel.

“These plain facts means we will need gas and oil for decades to come.  

"Additionally, in Scotland alone, the offshore industry supports 90,000 jobs. Across the UK it's around 200,000.

“So we need to ensure that the final strategy acknowledges the continuing role of oil and gas in Scotland’s energy security and economy – as well as our sector's role in a rapid transition to a low-carbon future.”

Liam Kerr, Conservative net zero and energy spokesperson, said the strategy "risks shutting down the industry prematurely, leaving us dependent on imports and undermining the very supply chain we need to deliver the transition”.

But the Scottish Greens' energy and environment spokesperson, Mark Ruskell, said the strategy will usher in a "generational tipping point" in favour of clean, renewable energy, labelling it "a historical step forward".

READ MORE: SNP ministers criticised for further delays to energy strategy

Climate activists have criticised the strategy, accusing SNP ministers of avoiding big decisions needed to tackle emissions and failing to bring forward enough action on energy efficiency and encouraging people to use public transport.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s head of campaigns, Mary Church, said: “Our current fossil fuelled energy system is seriously harming people and the climate yet there is very little by way of new measures in this long-awaited Scottish Government energy strategy to tackle the climate emergency or the immediate impacts of the cost of energy crisis.

“After two years of preparation, this is a document chock full of existing commitments that we already know are insufficient to meet our climate targets, never mind the surge in action we need to see this decade.

"The Scottish Government has shied away from taking the big decisions we know are needed like setting an end date for fossil fuels in our energy system within the decade and committing to phasing out oil and gas in line with science and justice.

“The draft strategy misses an open goal by failing to dramatically ramp up action on energy efficiency and public transport which can help improve lives, cut bills and deliver on climate commitments."

Jamie Livingstone, Head of Oxfam Scotland, claimed that "we still await leadership from the Scottish Government against any new oil and gas", adding "that would demand clear opposition to any new exploration and production".

He added: Instead, we see more deliberating, and therefore yet more delay.

“The power to end new licenses rests with the UK Government, but Scottish ministers should be unequivocal in their opposition because yet more climate-wrecking fossil fuels will have devastating effect for people already suffering from droughts, storms, and other extreme weather events made worse by the climate crisis."