Climate campaigners have warned Humza Yousaf’s government against “back-sliding” on the SNP’s position on oil and gas after a senior Cabinet minister talked up future North Sea production.

Mr Yousaf has stressed the importance of the climate crisis while at the same time moving to reassure oil and gas workers they will not be left “on the scrapheap” by the energy transition.

The Scottish Government has held a consultation on draft plans to back accelerate the move away from fossil fuels in the North Sea towards renewables.

Future oil and gas licences are reserved to the UK Government, but UK Labour leader Keir Starmer has pledged that he would halt any future exploration if he becomes prime minister.

Yesterday, SNP Government Energy Minister Gillian Martin claimed Labour is being “tone deaf” with its plan for no new North Sea oil and gas licences.

Last year, Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs that the proposed oil field at Cambo in the North Sea should not “get the green light”, but Mr Yousaf has refused to give a view on future developments.

Read more: SNP ministers urged to commit to fully clean energy system

Previously SNP Net Zero Secretary Màiri McAllan said the Scottish Government did not agree with new oil and gas licences.

In November, she told MSPs that “we do not agree with the UK Government issuing new oil and gas licences”.

But since becoming a senior member of the Scottish Government’s Cabinet this year, Ms McAllan said it would be “wrong” to stop future activity in the North Sea.

Speaking to The Times, Ms McAllan said: "The unlimited extraction of fossil fuels is not consistent with Scotland’s ambitious climate obligations but we also have to ensure a planned and fair transition that leaves no one behind.

The Herald: Mairi McAllanMairi McAllan (Image: PA)

“That means simply stopping all future activity is wrong. It could threaten energy security while destroying the very skills we need to transition to the new low-carbon economy.”

The International Energy Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN Secretary-General and the Governments of Denmark, France, Sweden, Wales and Ireland have all agreed with the need to end new oil and gas to secure a safe climate future.

Read more: Yousaf warns against shutting down North Sea oil and gas sector

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s head of campaigns Mary Church said: “Scotland is literally burning, with what may be the UK's biggest wildfire on record, and yet the Scottish Government appears to be back-sliding on its commitment to phasing out oil and gas to protect the climate.

“In November last year, Màiri McAllan said the Government didn't agree with the UK handing out new oil and gas licences.

"In the intervening months, the climate crisis has only got worse with more extreme weather and ever greater human cost, yet now the Cabinet Secretary seems to be talking up future activity in the North Sea.

Read more: SNP's just transition chief not consulted over oil and gas strategy

“Every new barrel of oil worsens the crisis and fuels the fire whilst taking us further away from a fair and fast transition to renewable energy.

“Standing up to greedy oil companies and setting an end date for oil and gas extraction this decade is an essential part of planning for a just transition for workers and communities currently dependent on the industry.

“It will provide certainty for the sector, making it clear that investing in renewables is the only choice for our energy future, and enabling workforce planning.”