THE oil and gas industry lobbied Scottish ministers on more than 200 occasions under Nicola Sturgeon, an environmental campaign group has revealed.

Research undertaken by Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland analysed the Scottish Government’s lobbying register as well as ministerial diaries to establish the extent of lobbying from fossil fuel firms over a period of just over four years.

The campaign group have raised concerns over the amount of influence the industry has, and the subsequent impact on the Scottish Government’s climate commitments, as well as their lack of opposition to the Rosebank oil and gas field, located west of Shetland.

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Oil lobbyists met with ministers while they were preparing the Climate Change Act in 2019, in the runup to COP26, and ahead of the recently published Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, the research found.

FoE Scotland have called on First Minister Humza Yousaf to end the “open door” policy for the lobby touted by his predecessor Sturgeon following the findings.

The environmental group established there were 212 recorded meetings between Scottish ministers and the fossil fuel lobby between March 2018, when the lobbying register began, and December 2022.

Of these meetings, junior ministers were present at 115 meetings, Cabinet Secretaries 71 times, special advisors 26 times and the first minister (Sturgeon) attended 12 of the meetings.

SSE was the most active company with 62 meetings, followed by BP with 32, and oil lobby group Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) with 22 meetings.

Michael Matheson MSP, net zero secretary at the time, and Paul Wheelhouse MSP, minister for energy until May 2021, were the industry’s favourites, both clocking up 39 meetings each.

The other members of the Government who met the industry more than 10 times were Ivan McKee MSP, then business minister, Richard Lochhead MSP, former minister for just transition, and Kate Forbes MSP, former Finance Secretary.

Mary Church, FoE Scotland’s head of campaigns, said: “Burning fossil fuels is the major driver of climate breakdown yet the arsonists are being asked how to put out the fire.

“Under Sturgeon it is clear that the Scottish Government has had an open-door policy towards the fossil fuel industry for years.”

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Church suggested the true scale of the fossil fuel lobby’s meetings with ministers is “likely even greater” than what was discovered during the research.

“And the Scottish Government’s continued overreliance on speculative technologies that are designed to prolong the life of oil and gas, show that the industry’s lobbying machine has been allowed to exert a harmful influence over decision-making on climate and energy,” she added.

“The fossil fuel industry has known about the danger of climate breakdown for decades and not only failed to act, but deliberately buried and obscured the truth about their role in driving it.”

Church said the oil and gas lobby has “repeatedly proven” they cannot be trusted to deliver a just energy transition, and called for them to be banned from lobbying on climate and energy, as tobacco companies have been in health.

The National: Church said the oil and gas lobby cannot be trusted to ensure a just transitionChurch said the oil and gas lobby cannot be trusted to ensure a just transition

She added: “To avoid catastrophic climate impacts and do our fair share globally, we must phase out oil and gas in this decade.

“As First Minister, Humza Yousaf has the chance to chart a new path away from fossil fuels without the industry trying to call the shots.

“If his Government is serious about tackling the climate crisis and delivering a just transition, it must cut ties with the fossil fuel industry and ban them from lobbying.”

The Scottish Government said that they are committed to a just transition and ensuring workers are included on the journey to net zero.

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“It is vital that we work together to ensure a just transition that protects and creates good, green jobs and seizes the economic benefits our journey presents,” a spokesperson said.

“Ministers undertake a wide range of stakeholder engagements relevant to their portfolio areas, and engage with businesses, owners and operators in our energy sector as a matter of course.

“Ministers have also met and continue to meet with the Just Transition Partnership and the Climate Change Plan Advisory Group. Both groups have Friends of the Earth represented.”

The spokesperson added that decisions on oil and gas exploration and licensing remain reserved to the UK Government, after FoE criticised a lack of opposition to Rosebank.

“But through our draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, we have set out a clear pathway to deliver on global commitments and capitalise on the enormous opportunities offered by becoming a net zero economy,” the spokesperson added.

“Our focus must be meeting our energy security needs, reducing emissions and ensuring a just transition for our oil and gas workforce as North Sea resources decline.

"We have consistently called for the UK Government’s Climate Compatibility Checkpoint to be strengthened and are consulting on our approach to energy transition.”

Scottish Government ministers most frequently lobbied by the fossil fuel industry:

(Minister name, title, number of lobbying incidents)

Michael Matheson MSP, Net Zero Secretary, 39

Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Energy minister, 39

Richard Lochhead MSP, Just Transition minister, 24

Ivan McKee MSP, Business minister, 24

Kate Forbes MSP, Finance Secretary, 13

Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister, 9

Kevin Stewart MSP, Local Government, Housing and Planning minister, 6

Fergus Ewing MSP, Rural Economy Secretary, 5

John Swinney MSP, Deputy FM, 5

Derek Mackay MSP, Finance Secretary, 4

Meetings held between March 2018 and December 2022