A TORY motion calling on the Scottish Parliament to back more North Sea oil and gas projects has been rejected by MSPs.

The motion called on MSPs to back the development of new oil and gas exploration projects in the North Sea, including the Cambo oil field, that has not yet been approved. It reasoned that supporting the sector's thousands of jobs would be beneficial to increasing energy imports.

It was brought by Tory MSP for North East Scotland Liam Kerr (below) who highlighted that the UK still requires oil for manufacturing of products and also needs gas for the production of energy.

However, the motion was rejected in favour of an SNP amendment that focused on supporting the sector in a just transition to greener energy.

The National: Tory justice spokesman Liam Kerr pressed the amendment

The industry is one that supports tens of thousands of jobs, especially in the north east of Scotland but the Scottish Government has recognised that the global climate crisis means that there needs to be a move away from extraction in order to meet the target of becoming net-zero carbon emitter by 2045.

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The Scottish Government has committed £500 million as part of a "just transition" away from oil and gas production over the next 10 years.

The commitment looks to build Scotland’s future as Europe’s renewable energy powerhouse.

Kerr's motion was not supported by other parties with several amendments from the SNP, Labour and LibDems heard ahead of the full debate where the Tories were on their own in supporting the development of new projects to drill for oil in the North Sea.

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An amendment by Net Zero and Energy Secretary Michael Matheson (above) focused on the commitments to lowering fossil fuel extraction from the Paris Climate Agreement which calls on countries to help limit global warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels.

The amendment was backed by MSPs by 68 votes to 55 meaning that Labour and LibDem amendments fell. The motion then passed with the amendment.

He said that the oil and gas industry supports around 100,000 jobs in Scotland and that, even as the country transitions away from fossil fuels, "we know it has a vital role to play in Scotland's energy future".

He added that the skills in the sector will help Scotland in its journey to net-zero and help it become a world leader in technologies like hydrogen energy, carbon capture and utilisation, and offshore wind.

He detailed that the "just transition" towards renewable forms of energy must be done in a way that is "just for the workers" as well as taking in Scotland's energy needs and the sector.

But he stressed that the transition also needs to be managed in a way that ensures oil and gas developments are compatible with climate change targets.

He said: "Renewable and low carbon cannot replace oil and gas jobs immediately and that's why we are committed to ending our contribution to climate change in a way that is both just and leaves no-one behind."

Labour MSP Monica Lennon (below) focused on jobs in her statement to MSPs while saying she would vote against the Tory motion.

She said that the development of the Cambo oil field should not go ahead as it goes against Scotland's aim of becoming net-zero by 2045.

She added that the transition to green sources of energy should be "jobs and worker-led" and stressed that "we cannot allow a climate crisis to become a jobs crisis".

The National:

She said: "For many years the biggest threat to our planet was climate denial, now the biggest threat to our planet is climate inaction. The message from climate scientists could not be clearer: to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, the internationally agreed target of the Paris Agreement, there can be no new oil and gas.

"That means no Cambo."

A further amendment by LibDem MSP for Orkney Liam McArthur agreed with Lennon that Cambo should not go ahead and more needed to be done to ensure that those working in oil and gas are given proper opportunities to have their skills redeployed in green energy.

McArthur added that "decisions taken over the next 10 years will either make the planet or break it" and the Cambo oil field was first considered in 2001 "when the basic facts of global warming were still being regularly disputed".

The Cambo oil field - located to the north west of the Shetland Islands - is yet to be given full approval for drilling of oil to commence, a decision which rests with the UK Government.

If given the go-ahead, there could be as much as 150m barrels of oil taken out of the Cambo field in the first few years – with emission equivalent to running a coal power station for 16 years. There is estimated to be as much as 800m barrels of oil in the field.

The National: Mark Ruskell MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, and spokesperson for climate, energy, environment, food and farming for the Scottish Greens

Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell (above), the party's climate spokesperson, said in the debate that the Tories presented no case for Cambo and continued oil and gas exploration despite the justification needing to be "very, very, strong" according to climate experts.

He said: "Countries around the world are recognising that an oil and gas transition needs to have a clear destination to actually transition to. They know that a just transition needs to start years in advance otherwise, there's a risk of a sudden deferred collapse of jobs in the future."

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Closing the debate for the Scottish Government, just transition minister Richard Lochhead said it was "disappointing" for the Tories to call for support of fossil fuel extraction weeks before the COP26 climate summit is due to be held in Glasgow.

He added: "I don't understand Liam Kerr's position on this, he seems to be all over the place. He just asked me a written question a couple of days ago that says the following: 'To ask the Scottish Government whether it plans to establish a fund to support island and rural communities to end their reliance on fossil fuels.'

"On the one hand, we have a motion saying that new developments should get the green light and go-ahead, irrespective of whether they are compatible with the 2045 net-zero target and on the other hand he's supporting communities who want to end their use of fossil fuels to help save the planet and their own future.

"We should be focussing on the just transition and the energy transition which is the biggest part of that given the reliance of jobs in the energy sector in this country."

Responding to the Scottish Parliament debate on the Future of North Sea Oil and Gas, with a focus on the proposed Cambo oil field, Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: " It’s astounding that as the UK Government prepares to host and cajole world leaders into tackling the climate emergency with greater urgency at COP26, it simultaneously appears inclined to greenlight an enormous new oil field at Cambo which will only intensify the climate crisis. We know this will fuel more poverty and hunger. 

"The world’s top scientists, the UN Secretary General and the international energy regulator themselves have all been clear: we can’t even afford to burn all the fossil fuels we already know about, never mind go drilling for more.  

"It was encouraging to hear strong statements of opposition to Cambo from a range of MSPs with positive recognition of the need to drive down emissions quickly and deeply. But while the Scottish Government has rightly called on the Prime Minister to review this proposed license, it palpably failed to use this opportunity to send him a clear message: that this Cambo climate carry on should be stopped, and it should be stopped now.”