THE Prime Minister has confirmed that hundreds of new North Sea oil and gas licences will be granted in the UK.

In a statement, Rishi Sunak said he believed that the new licences would help the UK achieve its net zero carbon emission goal by 2050.

It comes after we previously told how the PM was coming under pressure from within his party to re-think climate goals - a move which was widely condemned as it was suggested the UK Government “couldn’t be trusted” to deal with climate change.

READ MORE: 'Crisis of confidence in UK': Poll reveals Scottish pessimism

Sunak (below) said: “We have all witnessed how Putin has manipulated and weaponised energy – disrupting supply and stalling growth in countries around the world.

“Now, more than ever, it’s vital that we bolster our energy security and capitalise on that independence to deliver more affordable, clean energy to British homes and businesses.

The National: Rishi Sunak has said he will now attend COP27

“Even when we’ve reached net zero in 2050, a quarter of our energy needs will come from oil and gas.

“But there are those who would rather that it come from hostile states than from the supplies we have here at home.

“We’re choosing to power up Britain from Britain and invest in crucial industries such as carbon capture and storage, rather than depend on more carbon intensive gas imports from overseas – which will support thousands of skilled jobs, unlock further opportunities for green technologies and grow the economy.”

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak loses it with BBC Scotland presenter in 'car crash' interview

The UK Government has also now committed to providing up to £20 billion of funding for early deployment of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) with the Acorn project in Scotland's north east now receiving support, along with the Viking project in the Humber. 

They become the third and fourth such projects to be backed by the UK Government. 

Energy Secretary Grant Shapps (below) also released a statement on the new licences, saying it will help “drive forward our energy independence and our economy for generations”.

The National: Grant Shapps

“In the wake of Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine, our energy security is more important than ever.

“The North Sea is at the heart of our plan to power up Britain from Britain so that tyrants like Putin can never again use energy as a weapon to blackmail us”, Shapps said.

READ MORE: SNP respond as Tories set to FINALLY fund key Scottish energy project

He continued: “Protecting critical jobs in every region of the UK, safeguarding our energy bills for British families and providing a homegrown fuel for our economy that, for domestic gas production, has around one-quarter the carbon footprint of imported liquified natural gas.

“Our next steps to develop carbon capture and storage, in Scotland and the Humber, will also help to build a thriving new industry for our North Sea that could support as many as 50,000 jobs, as we deliver on our priority of growing the economy.”

What has the reaction been?

The SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn (below) said that support for Acorn was “excellent news for the north-east of Scotland”.

However, he added that it only comes after “18 years of dither and delay” from the UK Government.

“I think in anything that comes from the UK Government the devil will very much be in the detail, but I don’t think anyone can step away from the fact that this is a positive step in the right direction after 18 years of dither and delay”, Flynn told BBC Scotland.

The National: SNP Westminster group leader Stephen Flynn speaking during Prime Minister's Questions

He added: “I guess the key thing now is making sure that the UK Government backs up this announcement today with real progress in terms of timing and the evaluation process.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens said the decision to grant 100 new licences showed a total disregard for the environment and for future generations.

MSP Mark Ruskell said: “This is an utterly reckless decision that will leave a long and destructive legacy.

“It is probably the single most consequential decision Rishi Sunak will make as Prime Minister and he has chosen the worst possible option.

“It shows a total disregard for our environment and for future generations. If these licences go ahead it will be a big leap towards climate chaos.”