Climate activists are calling on Humza Yousaf’s government to heap pressure on UK ministers to clean up the North Sea after the full extent of oil leaks was revealed.

Campaigners are calling on the Scottish Government to “demand the UK Government abandon its plans” to allow new fossil fuels developments to go ahead.

Activists have appealed for Mr Yousaf to set out his government's own position and “make clear that it does not support the development of any new projects” in the North Sea.

The call comes after research by Uplift and Oceania revealed the true extent of oil spills in the North Sea.

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The study found that fossil fuels companies have released more than 22,000 tonnes of oil into UK waters between 2017 and 2022 – with more than 40 per cent breaching permits.

Fossil fuels companies are allowed to release some oil including so-called ‘produced water’ - as a by-product of routine production.

Regulations allow a maximum limit of 30 parts of oil per million parts of water to be released.

A total of 58% of the 22,000 tonnes of oil released was done so legally through government-issued permits.

But 42%, totalling 9,000 tonnes of oil, was also released in breach of these permits and other regulations.

Analysis of the data reveals one or more breaches across 1,056 days in the 2,093 days between 2017 and 2022 - one every other day.

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As well as routine oil spills, the new report shows how oil and gas production harms marine life through toxic chemicals, microplastics, and extreme noise pollution through seismic blasting.

The worst offenders are state-owned Dana and Repsol Sinopec who released 6,000 and 2,400 tonnes of oil into UK waters and breached their permits and regulations 271 and 216 times respectively.

Shell was the fourth worst polluter over the five-year period, releasing more than 3,200 tonnes of oil and reporting 169 breaches. BP also released more than 1,000 tonnes and reported 133 breaches.

Ithaca Energy, which has a stake in two controversial proposed oil fields near Shetland, Cambo and Rosebank, released more than 900 tonnes over the five-year period and breached its permits and regulations 48 times.

Modelling featured in the In Deep Water report shows that a major oil spill from Rosebank, which the UK Government is due to decide whether it should go ahead, could risk serious impact to at least 16 UK Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

Tessa Khan, executive director of Uplift, said: "We are finally starting to understand and appreciate how rich, diverse and important Britain’s waters are, and in particular the seas around Scotland.

“Now is the time to protect and restore them, not continue to pollute and industrialise them for the sake of oil and gas industry profits.

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“The new First Minister must demand the UK Government abandon its plans to approve new fields, especially in Scotland’s marine protected areas, and to reject the huge Rosebank field, which would see a pipeline cut through the protected Shetland sponge belt."

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said that the amount of oil spilling into the North Sea every year “is simply unacceptable”.

He added: “Scottish ministers should use all the levers they have available to ensure the UK Government takes action to end oil pollution from rigs and that the companies responsible are made to pay.

“The persistent threat posed to wildlife and the wider marine environment from the oil and gas drilling is just yet another reason why we need to end our reliance on fossil fuels.”

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Friends of the Earth Scotland head of campaigns Mary Church, has warned that the new research shows “how damaging the oil and gas industry is not just to the climate, but also to our oceans and marine life”.

She added: “With over half of oil spills officially sanctioned by Government and the rest in breach of permits it's clear this industry can't operate without causing serious harm, or be trusted to abide by regulations.

"Any new oil and gas production will inevitably lead to further spills of this type, to say nothing of the climate devastation it will bring.

“The new Scottish Government must make clear that it does not support the development of any new projects starting by objecting to the vast Rosebank field currently under consideration by the UK Government."

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Powers over this issue are reserved but the impact of oil spills is concerning and Scottish ministers are clear that more needs done to ensure effective action is taken.”

Mark Wilson from Offshore Energies UK, said the “industry is focused on driving continuous improvement”.

He added: "Our latest data, covering 2022, published in our environment report shows that oil mass in produced water fell by 10%."

A UK Government spokesperson said: "We are clear that companies should not be breaching their permit conditions.

“If they do, appropriate action will be taken, including the use of fines".