SCOTLAND’S Energy Secretary has declined to oppose the development of the controversial Rosebank oil field in the North Sea.

Speaking to journalists after a briefing on the latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures – which showed record-high receipts from oil and gas – Neil Gray would not either support or oppose developing the oil field.

The Rosebank oil field off Shetland, which is expected to produce more than 500 million barrels of oil during its lifetime, has not yet been approved by the UK Government, but it is widely expected to be given the go-ahead in the near future.

Campaigners including Greta Thunberg have urged the Tory government not to develop the site, saying that to do so would be a “deliberately destructive act”.

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Asked if he thought Rosebank should be developed, Gray said: “I don’t actually think that decision’s been taken by the UK Government on Rosebank and it’s for them to decide upon it. Whether we like it or not, oil and gas licencing continues to be reserved to the UK Government.”

The Energy Secretary went on: “We have said very clearly that we want to see more stringent climate compatibility checkpoints to ensure that any oil and gas operations can be consistent with our net-zero obligations. I stress again, oil and gas is going to be with us for some time to come.

“What I want to see is a faster acceleration of that just transition so we can reap the opportunity that’s coming from an economic perspective but also from a net-zero perspective.”

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Asked if the Scottish Government was opposing all new oil and gas licences or if there was to be a presumption against them, Gray (above) said the Government was “considering” the results of a consultation on its energy strategy and would be publishing a finalised just transition plan “in due course”.

The GERS figures published on Wednesday showed a record £9.4 billion for the hydrocarbon sector in 2022-23.

GERS also showed Scotland’s notional deficit dropped to 9% last year, rising to 15.1% when North Sea revenues were removed. The UK’s was given as 5.2%, but there were no figures provided for the UK without North Sea oil and gas.

The Scottish Government has called for an end to “unlimited extraction” in the North Sea and under Nicola Sturgeon it shifted to oppose the Cambo oil field near Shetland.

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But despite activist calls, the current Government of First Minister Humza Yousaf has so far not opposed the much larger Rosebank oil field.

Asked by journalists about Rishi Sunak’s (below) announcement that the UK would be granting more than 100 new oil and gas licences in the North Sea, Gray said it was an “extreme” position.

He said: “We’ve been clear on our position on new oil and gas licences. We don’t think that maximum and unlimited extraction is compatible with our net-zero ambitions. I think I described the Prime Minister’s intervention last week as extreme, I think it’s at the extreme end.

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“We need to see a just transition. Our existing energy sector, oil and gas, is incredibly important in terms of investment opportunity but also in terms of the workforce, the skills, experience.”

Gray said the UK Government had to “step up” in a number of areas to help accelerate the just transition.

He said: “Obviously the oil and gas sector has contributed significantly not just to Scotland but to the public finances for the rest of the UK as well. What I want to see is the opportunity of renewables grasped.

“We’re still waiting on full clarity on carbon capture and storage … and we’re still waiting on a marketisation plan for pumped-hydro storage, so there are still areas where the UK Government needs to step up, needs to show the initiative, and needs to put their money where their mouth is in terms of that net-zero just transition.”