The National:

THE famous SNP election slogan “It’s Scotland’s Oil” was coined – after a lot of internal argument – by that doyen of the national movement (Sir) George Reid, sometime MP and MSP, and latterly Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament. Originally the slogan was meant to be “It’s Scottish Oil”. But Reid argued this formulation sounded too old fashioned and defensive whereas stressing Scotland’s ownership was modern and dynamic. Reid is now 82-years-young but his slogan is still causing bother.

Enter accident-prone Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, who was born a decade after the slogan was first used. Mr Ross has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urging her to support the proposed Cambo Atlantic oil field. According to Mr Ross: “The SNP used to shout from the rooftops that ‘it’s Scotland’s oil’ – now they wish it was gone.” His intervention comes after the FM wrote to Boris Johnson urging a rethink of the licensing of any new oil fields, given the climate emergency. But according to Ross, the FM is only interested in “sealing a nationalist deal with the Greens and provoking a grievance with the UK Government”.

READ MORE: Douglas Ross labelled 'petulant troll' over Nicola Sturgeon oil letter

It is curious that Douglas Ross has only decided to break cover on climate change by attacking Nicola Sturgeon. Last week he was conspicuously silent when Boris Johnson uttered his crass remarks regarding Margaret Thatcher’s politically motivated pit closures, back in the 1980s. Chatting to reporters on a trip to a Scottish offshore wind farm, Mr Johnson was asked whether a timetable should be set for ending oil and gas exploration due to the climate emergency. Laughing, he responded: “Thanks to Margaret Thatcher who closed so many coal mines across the country … we’re now moving rapidly away from coal altogether.”

Thatcher was responsible for the loss of 191,000 UK mining jobs, some 80% of the then workforce. We are still living with her cruel legacy of blighted communities and lives destroyed. This explains the legitimate desire of the Scottish Government for a “just transition” away from oil and gas – one that ensures the 100,000 workers currently in the oil industry are found alternative sources of employment in a way denied to miners under Thatcher.

Of course, it is possible to criticise the FM for not taking a harder public stance against the Cambo project. But her understandable attempt to reconcile decarbonising the economy with protecting current livelihoods stands in stark contrast to the class political opportunism of the Scottish Conservative branch manager. Ross was called on to distance himself from Boris Johnson’s insensitive remarks. Instead, he went to ground, surfacing only to make silly comments about the FM.

Mr Ross appears to favour pressing on with the Cambo project. The field is mainly owned by Shell and Siccar Point Energy, a private equity-backed firm which needs to pump as much oil as possible to get a return on its investment. Cambo was initially licensed in 2001. Full licensing is now in the hands of the Oil and Gas Authority. The problem is that while Westminster has introduced a climate compatibility test for new developments, this does not apply to Cambo, which technically has already been licensed.

READ MORE: Richard Murphy: Ignore nonsense about climate change action being too expensive

According to Mr Ross: “The oil and gas industry has already made substantial moves towards net zero. In fact, they have more detailed plans for reaching net zero than the SNP government.” In which case, Mr Ross, why has Shell sat on the Cambo field until now? And can we really trust a private equity firm to be more concerned with the environment than with profits? In fact, one of the investors behind Siccar Point is the US investment giant Blackstone, which has huge stakes in coal and nuclear energy which rather suggests the Cambo field is anything but a green transition plan towards net zero.

When pressed on the Cambo project, Boris Johnson claimed it was too late to do anything about it. Douglas Ross is merely trying to protect his boss by deflecting attention on to the Scottish Government, despite oil licensing being a reserved matter. It is unlikely he will succeed.