THE UK Government has been accused of a “complete betrayal” of the north east of Scotland after rejecting a carbon capture project in the initial round of funding.

It was hoped the Acorn Project, based at the St Fergus gas terminal in Aberdeenshire, would capture around 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year and transport it, using existing pipelines, for storage in one of three depleted North Sea gas fields.

Bosses said the site could have been up and running by the mid-2020s. However, it has missed out on the first round of Westminster funding and is unlikely to be developed until the second phase in the 2030s at the earliest.

Projects south of the Border on the Humber and around Liverpool have been selected for the UK's carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) cluster sequencing process instead, with the Scottish project now deemed a “reserve”. It would have captured emissions from Grangemouth and St Fergus, plus a new power station at Peterhead.

Under the UK Government’s scheme, four projects are being selected in total. Two are to be operational by 2025 and two more by 2030, each sharing a £1 billion pot.

UK energy minister Greg Hands insisted the Government "continues to be committed" to other potential projects, such as the St Fergus site, which meet the eligibility criteria.

The National: International Trade Minister Greg Hands Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

READ MORE: Tory minister says carbon capture snub is 'good news' for Scotland

But the SNP said the decision was a "catastrophic blow". 

The party’s business and energy spokesperson at Westminster, Stephen Flynn, said: "This is a complete betrayal of the North East by the Westminster government – and this day will live long in the memories of people right across Scotland.

"This inexplicable decision shows the Tories are guilty of empty words and broken promises on ensuring a just transition for Scotland's communities. The Tories pulled the plug on £1bn of carbon capture investment for Peterhead in 2015 and now they've repeated the trick again.

"It beggars belief that at the very moment Tory ministers are being challenged to match the Scottish Government's £500 million investment in a just transition – they are instead sticking two fingers up to Scotland and withdrawing investment.”

He added: "The north east of Scotland is the home of the offshore industry and the obvious location for a carbon capture project. How can we have a ‘just transition’ if the Tories aren’t willing to put the North East of Scotland first?

"It's clear the Tories have put holding seats in the 'red wall' of northern England ahead of saving jobs in Aberdeen and the North East."

The decision was also condemned by leading energy firms which had backed the Scottish project.

Stuart Haszeldine, director of industry body Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage, said the decision was “extremely disappointing”.

The Scottish Tory net-zero spokesman, Liam Kerr MSP, said the decision was "disappointing".

“Support to develop CCUS technology is vital for the future of the North Sea energy industry," he stated.

“The Scottish Conservatives have been pushing hard for the North East to be at the forefront of CCUS. That will not change and it still will be a UK and world leader.

“Looking to track two within this decade, we will redouble our efforts with the UK Government, which has been the only one to acknowledge the strengths of Scottish CCUS, especially since the Greens and SNP formed their coalition of chaos.

“The Greens would scrap it all today if they could.”

Hands, in a written statement to Parliament, announced that the two schemes that have been selected would be “taken forward” into negotiations, adding: “If the clusters represent value for money for the consumer and the taxpayer then subject to final decisions of Ministers, they will receive support under the government’s CCUS Programme.”

He continued: “We are also announcing the Scottish Cluster as a reserve cluster if a back-up is needed.

“A reserve cluster is one which met the eligibility criteria and performed to a good standard against the evaluation criteria.

“As such, we will continue to engage with the Scottish Cluster throughout Phase-2 of the sequencing process, to ensure it can continue its development and planning.

“This means that if government chooses to discontinue engagement with a cluster in Track-1, we can engage with this reserve cluster instead.”