SNP not against new oil and gas licences, Deputy First Minister says

Kate Forbes insisted developments would have to meet climate compatibility tests.

Kate Forbes said the SNP had ‘never said no’ to further licensing
Kate Forbes said the SNP had ‘never said no’ to further licensing (Jane Barlow/PA)

The SNP is not against new oil and gas licences, Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes has said.

Developments in the North Sea, though, would need to meet “climate compatibility tests” to be supported by the Scottish Government, she said.

It comes as First Minister and SNP leader John Swinney did not confirm whether his party would move away from its previous presumption against new licences.

While he previously told journalists of the need for a “managed transition”, Ms Forbes has moved a step further, saying the party is “clear” on its strategy.

Speaking to journalists during a General Election campaign visit to Linlithgow, West Lothian, the Deputy First Minister said: “We’ve been clear that we’re not against new licences per se, but they have to meet a climate compatibility test.

“We’re very serious about meeting our climate change targets and obligations. We believe it is one of the most pressing issues of our day.

“But we also believe that it needs to be a just transition, which means you can’t leave workers behind and we also need the talent, skills, infrastructure and resources in the industry to reinvest.”

She added that her party had “never said no” to further licensing, adding: “My position is that it has to be a just transition.

“We have to remember that that requires justice to be at the heart, not forgetting the workers like Labour will, with potentially 100,000 jobs at risk.

“That’s why I think this is about a process and the process had to be compatible with our climate change targets but, at the same time, it’s not about switching the taps off tomorrow.”

(PA Graphics/Press Association Images)

It is understood the Scottish Government’s new strategy will not be published before the election on July 4.

The Scottish Tories are set to raise the issue of oil and gas during a Holyrood debate on Wednesday afternoon.

Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said: “This is laughable from the Deputy First Minister and goes to show that the SNP is tying itself in knots to explain the mess it is in over the future of oil and gas.

“For months the SNP has said one thing to the North East and another to the rest of Scotland – now their hypocrisy and opportunism has caught up with them.

“For Kate Forbes to say that the SNP never argued against future oil and gas licences is just false – Humza Yousaf called new oil and gas ‘tantamount to climate change denial’ just months ago.

“It’s clear for all to see that John Swinney has been overruled by Westminster politician Stephen Flynn as they continue to put party before country.

“While the SNP position is all hot air, Scottish Labour is clear that oil and gas will remain vital for decades to come while Labour deliver the jobs and investment we need to transition to clean energy.”

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross accused Ms Forbes of taking North East voters for “fools” by “rewriting history”.

He said: “John Swinney was repeatedly asked whether his party would reverse their reckless opposition to new oil and gas licences during the STV leaders’ debate – and he repeatedly refused to do so.

“Now his deputy has the brass neck to claim the SNP have always been on the industry’s side.”

However, Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said new drilling would be an “environmental catastrophe in the making”.

“While the SNP U-turns, and the Tories give tax breaks to polluters, Labour is showing utter confusion about its own plans,” he said.