SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn has said that the Cambo oil field should go ahead if it meets climate checks, appearing to contradict Nicola Sturgeon’s stance on the issue.

The Cambo oil field, situated 125 km off the north coast of Shetland, became one of the big talking points when Glasgow hosted the global climate conference COP26 in November 2021.

Environmental campaigners took their plea for the UK Government to scrap the licence for the oil field during the summit, with Shell later pulling its investment in the project. However, reports in March last year suggested the fossil fuel firm, which brought in billions of profits during the energy crisis, is reconsidering its decision.

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Activists have criticised Flynn for his most recent comments, and said the party leadership should "get clear on its position" over the future of oil and gas in the north sea. 

Following COP26, the First Minister told MSPs that the crude oil field should “not be given the green light” as it would not pass climate compatibility requirements.

Cambo is understood to contain more than 800 million barrels of oil and has been referred to as one of the “largest undeveloped fields on the UK continental shelf”.

It was reported during the short leadership race to replace Ian Blackford as SNP Westminster leader that Flynn, Aberdeen South MP, had a differing view to the oil and gas industry than the FM.

And now, speaking to the Daily Record, Flynn said: "My position on Cambo has never really deviated.

"If it meets the climate compatibility checkpoint, if that's a strengthened climate compatibility checkpoint, as what the Scottish Government would like to see, then I'm not sure why it wouldn't go ahead.

The National: The FM said Cambo should not be given the 'green light' in 2021The FM said Cambo should not be given the 'green light' in 2021

"But it would need to meet the threshold as laid out. That threshold, as I understand it... does take into consideration the necessity for energy security."

He added: "I'm not entirely sure whether the Scottish Government's position, in terms of the statement that they have made, will have a direct impact on potential future investments in drilling in the North Sea but what I would hope is that industry would look at it on the basis of the fact that the Scottish Government been clear in and around the climate compatibility checkpoints but also the case of marrying needs of energy security.

"It will be for industry to highlight whether the developments that they want to take forward will meet those requirements."

The First Minister told MSPs in 2021 that Scotland can’t go on “extracting new oil and gas forever”.

She added: “That’s why we’ve moved away from the policy of maximum economic recovery and I don’t think we can go and continue to give the go-ahead to new oil fields.

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“So, I don’t think Cambo should get the green light.

“I am not the one taking that decision so I’ve set out a proposal for the climate assessment and I think the presumption would be that Cambo shouldn’t and wouldn’t pass any rigorous climate assessment.”

Mary Church, Friends of the Earth Scotland’s head of campaigns, criticised Flynn's comments and said that the evidence is "clearer" now than when the FM made her first statement opposing Cambo and that new oil and gas extraction is "not compatible with a liveable future". 

She added: "No truly robust climate compatibility test would ever give the go-ahead to massive, polluting developments like Cambo, so the SNP leadership needs to get clear on its position and reject all new oil and gas extraction outright.

"If even the Westminster leader of the SNP doesn't understand what the Scottish Government's position is, how is the energy sector or anyone else supposed to?

"There is no room for any new oil and gas development, and some fields already under production must be phased out early for any chance of avoiding catastrophic warming.

The National: Church said that there is 'no room' for new oil and gasChurch said that there is 'no room' for new oil and gas

"It's time for the SNP to move on from the rhetoric and deliberate ambiguity and get off fossil fuels within this decade.

“The huge public and political opposition to the Cambo oil field which led to Shell pulling its funding from the project has not gone away.

"Thousands of people have backed the linked campaigns against the Jackdaw and Rosebank fields which the oil industry wants to develop. Meanwhile, the climate crisis has intensified, showing more than ever the urgency of the need to phase out fossil fuels.”

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It comes after Energy Secretary Michael Matheson said Scotland’s production of oil and gas will “effectively end” in the next 20 years, and that the Scottish Government will consider speeding up the move away from fossil fuels.

Launching the Energy Strategy which will be the basis for the industry over the next 25 years, Matheson also suggested there should be “more robust” climate compatibility checks for oil and gas fields than the current scheme operated by the UK Government.

The National has previously asked UK Government ministers if they will consider updating the licensing scheme and climate checkpoints but were told there is no intention to do so.