NICOLA Sturgeon has hit back at claims the SNP are abandoning oil and gas workers in the north east.

During a fiery exchange at FMQs, the First Minister and Scottish Tory leader entered into a back and forth over the future of the fossil fuel industry in Scotland.

The First Minister previously said that the controversial Cambo oil field should not be given the greenlight. And after Shell announced it was pulling out of the project, Scottish Greens Minister Patrick Harvie commented that only the “hard right” supported future extraction of fossil fuels.

Later on Twitter, Harvie clarified that his comments were directed at the Scottish Tories, and Ross brought them up in the chamber, asking if the First Minister agreed with his statement.

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The Scottish Tory leader asked his questions remotely, as he is self isolating after a staff member tested positive for Covid.

The First Minister said: “I believe supporting a just transition away from fossil fuels to renewable and low carbon sources of energy is a policy all of us should support.

“What is absolutely essential is that we support those who currently work in the oil and gas sector and that we don’t substitute domestic production with imported production, but for the sake of our planet, for the sake of future generations we must accelerate that transition.”

She added that the closure of the Longannet coal power station would have been impossible in the past if Scotland wanted to “keep the lights on” and without significant unemployment, adding that she is pressing for a just transition for workers.

Ross pressed the First Minister again claiming that the Scottish Greens “celebrated” jobs in the oil and gas industry being lost as the Cambo project's future lies in doubt.

He said: “Those statements are an insult to every single worker in the north sea sector and they should be condemned by the First Minister but as we just heard they won’t be.

“And it’s because as the Greens keep on boasting, they forced the SNP into and I quote, a massive change of direction over oil and gas.

“So can I ask the First Minister, what matters more to her government - jobs for the Scottish Greens or jobs for north east workers?”

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The First Minister hit back at Ross’s suggestion. She said: “It’s very clear that references to being right wing are references that Douglas Ross seems to take very personally. I’ll leave people to judge why that might be the case.

“Let me also say just as an aside, what is putting potentially north sea oil and gas workers jobs at risk is the UK Government’s failure to invest as a priority in the Acorn Carbon capture project in the North East.

“So perhaps a bit less political rhetoric from Douglas Ross and a bit more encouraging his colleagues in the UK Government, if they can find the time from their other pursuits at the moment, to prioritise investments Scotland badly needs.”

Ross then claimed it was “disgusting” that the First Minister joked about Harvie’s comment, and claimed that Greens ministers “want fewer jobs and less investment in Scotland”.

The National:

Ross asked his questions via videolink after a staff member tested positive for Covid

He added that the Greens are “against building any new roads” and believe “economic growth is no longer possible”.

Ross said: “So now that these extreme economic views are at the heart of her government, isn’t it just a matter of time before the First Minister abandons more Scottish workers in the way she’s abandoned the oil and gas industry?”

The First Minister hit back at Ross for muddying the waters around a just transition and causing concerns for workers in the industry.

She said: “We have witnessed and are continuing to witness many disgusting things in politics, but none of them are on the part of this Scottish Government.

“I almost feel a little bit of sympathy for Douglas Ross today because I know he must be deeply mortified by the actions and behaviour of his colleagues in the UK Government, but that is no excuse, no excuse, for throwing around unfounded accusations and trying to cause concern on the part of oil and gas workers right now.

The National:

The First Minister pointed to the UK's failure to invest in the Acorn carbon capture project

“I as First Minister am committed to making sure we have a just transition away from oil and gas in the same way that we have had that transition from coal power, because the future of our planet demands that and we will make the investments to ensure that that is done justly and fairly.

“If the UK Government wanted to work with us around carbon capture, for example, then that transition would be easier.

“I am committed to ensuring that we don’t leave people behind, we don’t have fewer jobs, instead we have clean, green jobs for the future.”

We previously told how the UK Government was accused of a "complete betrayal" of the north east of Scotland after rejecting the Acorn project in the initial round of funding.

It was hoped the project, based at the St Fergus gas terminal in Aberdeenshire, would capture around 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

The carbon would then be transported using exisiting pipelines to be stored in one of three depleted North Sea gas fields.