Very little of note was said by the Scottish Conservatives at their underwhelming conference last week. But one thing is for sure – Douglas Ross’s Tories are billing themselves as the petroleum party.

That is a difficult circle to square in the context of the climate emergency, given that the secretary general of the UN, António Guterres, has warned governments that a “global addiction” to fossil fuels must end.

The International Energy Agency has also stressed that there is no place for new fossil fuel projects if the world is to halt the climate crisis.

But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told Tory delegates at the SEC on Friday that “we alone are the party that supports Scotland’s North Sea oil and gas industry”.

That was backed up by Mr Ross, who grinningly told the conference that the Tories are “now the only party standing up for Scotland’s oil”.

📝 Sign up for our Unspun newsletter and enjoy exclusive opinion and analysis from some of Scotland's best political writers and commentators. Click here to sign up 👈

Andrew Bowie, a UK Government energy minister and Aberdeen MP, told me that the SNP, and Labour, have abandoned oil and gas workers in the northeast of Scotland – a key theme of the Tory conference.

But that message may be hard to swallow for the public, where in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis, oil and gas giant BP announced today that it made more than half-a-billion pounds more than expected in just three months.

The company said it made just under five billion US dollars (£4 billion) in underlying replacement cost profit between January and March, citing a strong performance in its oil trading business.

The Conservatives placing themselves in the corner of oil and gas giants is nothing new. But the Tories need something deeper than appealing to staunch Conservative voters to pull them out of the electoral pit they could very likely face at the next general election in Scotland.

Polls now consistently put the Conservatives behind Labour and the SNP at Holyrood. Ironically, it seems the SNP turmoil over the party’s finances has dumped the Tories into third place as Labour enjoys a boost with voters.

So the Scottish Tories, despite their boasts about having no ceiling on their ambition for the next general election, could do with something tangible to appeal to the centre ground.

Party chiefs insist that the Tories will be targeting seats all over Scotland in the next general election, not just the oil and gas heartlands. But the message is loud and clear – a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for more oil and gas.

The SNP has, in the past, trumpeted the North Sea oil and gas sector more than most.

The 2014 economic case for independence was built on ‘Scotland’s oil’. Despite perceptions, Nicola Sturgeon’s latest version also pointed to oil and gas profits to kickstart the economy of an independent Scotland.

The Scottish Government, although it may not like to admit it, will also need fossil fuels if it is to get serious about hydrogen.

The SNP has placed itself, at least in terms of ambition, firmly on the side of the planet and cutting pollution – its voters demand it.

There are economic advantages to this – most obviously through renewable technologies that will replace fossil fuels, although Scotland has been burned by these promises before.

But some in the SNP aren’t happy with this...

...want to read the full article? Sign up for free to the Unspun newsletter and receive it directly to your inbox every weekday night at 7pmClick here 👈