ONE of the oil and gas sector’s most respected figures has said it would be “absolutely crazy” for the UK to stop drilling for oil.

And Sir Ian Wood has claimed there would be a significant economic impact on the north east of Scotland if oil and gas production ended earlier than planned – including the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

The tycoon, who has previously voiced opposition to a second independence referendum, said: “Right now there's 71,000 jobs in oil and gas in Scotland. And if they went out there quickly then these jobs would go.

“Not only that, we'd have a massive balance of payments issue as well.

“It does not make sense from any point of view. You're better from the economic point of view, from the environment point of view, from the jobs point of view, to carry on the path we're on.”

In a BBC Scotland interview, Wood said it would be “detrimental, environmentally” to shut down the oil and gas sector, and new fields were necessary to stop imports from countries with less strict regulations.

“If we don't have our own oil and gas we'll have to import it because we just don't have any other resources,” he said.

“And if we import it we'll have more potent gas and we'll do more damage to the environment – it would be, frankly, absolutely crazy. It would be detrimental, environmentally.”

However, Mel Evans, from Greenpeace, said Wood’s comments were “a load of rubbish”.

She said: “New oil would be disastrous for the climate. Looking at our own oil production, the UK has an abysmal track record on operational emissions – we’re decades behind Norway.

“And we already export 80% of oil produced in the UK, so claiming that new oil is needed for our own supply is misleading.”