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by Staff reporter
14 October 2023
Neil Gray: I’m not opposed to new oil and gas developments

Photo by Anna Moffat

Neil Gray: I’m not opposed to new oil and gas developments

Scotland’s energy secretary has said he is “not opposed” to new oil and gas developments despite his government’s proposal to put in place a presumption against new licencing.

Neil Gray said the continuation of oil and gas extraction is vital in the just transition towards net zero.

But he added that new fields – such as Rosebank, which was finally given the green light last month – must meet certain climate tests before going ahead.

In an exclusive interview with Holyrood, Gray said: “I would have preferred to have seen transparent, stringent, climate compatibility checkpoint that would have demonstrated how Rosebank or any other oil and gas license [meets climate aims]… Those are important considerations.

“I'm not opposed to any new oil and gas but what I want to see is a demonstration that it’s actually going to help us on our transition.”

The Scottish Government’s draft energy strategy, published in January, proposed a presumption against new oil and gas licences, meaning ministers would be opposed to new exploration unless companies could prove that doing so would not have adverse impacts on climate targets.

The final strategy was set to be published by the end of this year but has now been delayed.

Energy minister Gillian Martin previously called on the Conservatives and Labour to take a “more nuanced and sensible” approach to North Sea.

Rosebank, which is situated off the coast of Shetland, was approved for development and production in September. It is predicted to produce over 300 million barrels of oil.

First Minister Humza Yousaf said he was “disappointed” it was given the go ahead.

Scottish Green co-leader – who is a member of government under the Bute House agreement – accused the UK Government of “wrecking” the future with the decision. He tweeted: “Hundreds of millions of tons of carbon emissions. No benefit to energy price or security. No just transition for workers. These people would literally burn your future for profit.”

But when pressed on what makes a new licence acceptable, Gray pointed to technology in carbon capture and storage, and the electrification of offshore platforms.

He suggested the UK Government only considered “how much it's going to contribute to the Westminster treasury” when thinking about North Sea licences. He added: “That’s a fundamental error and it is incredibly short sighted because the cost of not dealing with the climate crisis is going to be much greater the slower we do this.”

Gray went on to praise Harvie and his co-leader Lorna Slater, saying the work they do is “incredibly valuable”. He added that working with the Scottish Greens was “challenging both parties to be able to go further” in various areas, including on Scottish independence.

The cabinet secretary went on to praise former first minister Nicola Sturgeon, adding that as a backbencher she “will not be shy in holding back on issues that she cares deeply about”.

The wide-ranging interview will appear in the next issue of Holyrood magazine, out Monday.

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