Branding those who support continued drilling in the North Sea as “hard right” was “disgraceful”, Scottish secretary Alister Jack has said.
The comment was made by Scottish Government minister Patrick Harvie after oil giant Shell announced it would be pulling out of the controversial Cambo oil field near Shetland.
The minister said it was “only the hard right who continue to deny the reality that” continued oil and gas extraction is “simply not compatible” with tackling climate change.
Speaking in the Scottish Affairs Committee, Jack stressed the importance of the oil and gas industry to the economy of the UK.
“I think that, as quoted, remark is disgraceful.
“I support future drilling and I’m not a hard-right extremist, just to put that on record in case anyone wondered.
“We have an oil and gas industry that is in transition – and the key is transition – and we will get to net zero by 2050.
“But when we get to 2050, let’s be clear, that on current calculations … 35% – I think it’s 20% oil and 15% gas – is our requirement in 2050 of our energy source.
“We need gas to make blue hydrogen and other products, and we need oil for the petrochemicals industry.
“The idea that oil suddenly stops would kill our economy.”
In his remarks, Harvie did not use the word “extremists”.
He added: “It’s not all about driving combustion engines, by then combustion engines in vehicles will be a thing of the past, it may well be electricity, it may well be hydrogen, but it will be a thing of the past.
“We will still need oil for the petrochemical industry to produce many products that our economy relies on, not least instruments for the NHS.”
The Scottish Secretary went on to reiterate his support for the Cambo development, in which Shell had a 30% stake before the decision last week.
“I still think it’s better that we develop Cambo than bring that oil I talked about requiring in the future in from another country, that’s less efficient.
“We should get it domestically and support jobs in the north east, jobs in Shetland.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government’s position is clear that unlimited extraction of fossil fuels is not consistent with our climate obligations and we continue to call on the UK Government, who have the power to act in this instance, to urgently re-assess all approved oil licenses where drilling has not yet commenced against our climate commitments.
“A just transition must be delivered across all of our communities, including those that have a dependency on oil and gas. That is why we are undertaking a programme of work and analysis to better understand Scotland’s energy requirements as we transition to net zero, ensuring an approach that supports and protects our energy security and our highly skilled workforce whilst meeting our climate obligations.
“We are already investing in the sector’s net zero transformation. Our £500m Just Transition Fund – which we have called on the UK Government multiple times to match – will support the north east and Moray as one of Scotland’s centres of excellence for the transition to a net zero economy, with our investment supporting transformation across the region.”