THERE are calls for the Scottish Government to announce an official end date to oil and gas production.

Climate activist groups have welcomed comments from Energy Secretary Michael Matheson in which he said that oil and gas production in the North Sea would “effectively end” within the next 20 years.

He made the comments while outlining the government’s new draft energy strategy, which included increasing on and offshore wind production as well as ramping up contributions to the grid from solar, hydro and marine energy.

Matheson stated that a failure to act would imperil the energy security of the country and the future of Scotland’s economy.

However, environmental groups have said that the First Minister must provide a date when fossil fuel production in Scotland will end.

Tessa Khan, executive director of climate justice campaign group Uplift, said:

“It's welcome to see the Scottish government explicitly connecting the cost of living and climate crises we're facing with our current over-reliance on fossil fuels. It is correct in saying that North Sea drilling is no solution to the energy price crisis, nor is it consistent with our climate obligations.

READ MORE: Scottish Government considers quicker end to North Sea oil and gas

“This is in stark contrast to the UK government, which has decision-making power over oil and gas, but which seems to think that sitting on its hands while continuing to subsidise oil and gas companies to the tune of billions is in any way helpful.

“Crucially, this draft strategy recognises that we need the fastest and fairest transition possible away from oil and gas. But for Nicola Sturgeon to claim the title of climate leader, she needs to champion an end date for oil and gas production, which is what the climate demands.”

However, Friends of the Earth Scotland said that the Scottish Government “shied away” from making big decisions and criticised the inclusion of carbon capture and hydrogen energy in the strategy.

Carbon Capture Storage has previously faced criticism from climate activists in Scotland due to concerns about the technology’s viability.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s head of campaigns Mary Church said:

“Our current fossil fuelled energy system is seriously harming people and the climate yet there is very little by way of new measures in this long-awaited Scottish Government Energy Strategy to tackle the climate crisis or the immediate impacts of the cost of energy crisis.

READ MORE: Andrew Bridgen suspended after comparing Covid vaccine to Holocaust

“After two years of preparation, this is a document chock full of existing commitments that we already know are insufficient to meet our climate targets, never mind the surge in action we need to see this decade.

“The Scottish Government has shied away from taking the big decisions we know are needed like setting an end date for fossil fuels in our energy system within the decade, and committing to phasing out oil and gas in line with science and justice.

She added: “The draft strategy misses an open goal by failing to dramatically ramp up action on energy efficiency and public transport which can help improve lives, cut bills and deliver on climate commitments.

“The Scottish Government must reject the dodgy technology of carbon capture and storage and fossil hydrogen which is being pushed by the profiteering oil and gas industry who want to keep us locked into this harmful system.

“2022 was the hottest year on record in Scotland. We are drinking in the last chance saloon for any hope of staying within the critical 1.5 threshold. For Scotland to play its part in tackling the climate crisis the final draft of this strategy needs to decisively end the era of fossil fuels.”

During the first Prime Minister's Questions of 2023 Rishi Sunak said that the Scottish oil and gas industry had his support and criticised the Scottish Government's plans for a just transition. 

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said at PMQs: “Yesterday Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP government published plans calling for as fast as possible shutdown of the industry and an end to new exploration. These plans are naive and reckless, and were previously described by (an) SNP leader in this House as crazy.”

Sunak replied: “We know that we will have to rely on hydrocarbons for decades to come as we transition to net zero.

“Consuming oil and gas from the North Sea means less than half the carbon footprint of importing that same oil and gas, which obviously makes sense to do it here and in the process support tens of thousands of jobs in Scotland.

“I can reassure him that the Scottish oil and gas industry has this Government’s wholehearted support.”

It comes just a month after the UK’s first new coalmine in 30 years was greenlit by Westminster.

Friends of the Earth has said it will take legal action against the UK Government as the decision fails to account for the impacts of the mine of the climate.