Most Scots back new North Sea drilling over energy imports


A MAJORITY of Scots believe the UK’s energy needs should be met domestically through oil and gas from the North Sea rather than relying on imports, a new poll has found.

Three quarters of respondents favoured relying on UK energy, with only 9% indicating they wanted more resources brought in from overseas.

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The poll was produced by strategic advisory firm True North, ahead of a sold-out event in Aberdeen on Tuesday held by the Holyrood Sources podcast and Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC).

The results of the poll be discussed at tonight’s event, which will be attended by over 300 business leaders from across Scotland.

By a factor of five to one people across Scotland think that energy companies operating in the North Sea have a positive impact on the UK economy. 

Despite calls from some political quarters to accelerate the winding down the UK’s oil and gas production, three quarters of Scots think that the UK should meet its ongoing demand for hydrocarbons from domestic sources — with less than 10% of people who think we should rely on imports. 

By a factor of nearly three to one people think that the UK government was right to grant new oil and gas licenses in UK waters. 

There is more of a mixed picture in terms of public views towards developing new nuclear power in Scotland, with 32% of the public in favour of the Scottish Government’s existing policy to block new nuclear plants with 38% who oppose this position. 

The Scottish public is broadly supportive of new wind farm developments, both onshore and offshore, with 61% supporting turbines located on land and 65% supporting the deployment of offshore wind. 

The survey also gauged public opinion on Scottish Government targets to phase out gas boilers and new petrol and diesel cars. 

Only 35% of the public think that the Scottish Government’s plans to phase out gas boilers by 2045 is achievable, with 56% harbouring doubts around whether this can be achieved. 

People are even more sceptical around the 2030 ambition to phase out petrol and diesel cars, with 70% considering this target unachievable. 

With two governments bearing responsibility for Scotland’s energy policy, Scots overwhelmingly recognise the importance of partnership working between Westminster and Holyrood to deliver energy security and unlock net zero. 

With sustained high global oil and gas prices since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and conflict in the Middle East, the UK government has imposed a windfall tax on the profits of the energy sector. The poll shows that a majority of people in Scotland believe that revenues from North Sea oil and gas should be ring fenced for investment in renewable energy and achieving net zero. 

First Minister Humza Yousaf has set out his ambition to make Scotland ‘the Net Zero Capital of the World’, however only 28% of respondents are convinced that his government is enacting the right policies on energy to deliver this aim. 

Fergus Mutch, Managing Partner, True North, predicts energy will be one of the main political issues in this year’s general election.

“While political parties may be falling over each other to set more and more ambitious targets as we continue to move away from fossil fuels, these poll findings suggest that public opinion is behind a more pragmatic approach,” he said.

“People in Scotland recognise the value of our existing energy sector and how important it is that we don’t become ever more reliant on overseas imports of oil and gas. 

“They want to see both UK and Scottish governments working in close partnership to unlock the opportunities of net zero, but there’s a healthy dose of scepticism around some existing targets and the wider policy approach to get us there — for example on timelines for phasing out gas boilers and new petrol and diesel cars.

“Scots overwhelmingly back the development of wind farms — both onshore and offshore — but opinions are more divided about new nuclear power stations being built in Scotland.

“Likewise, voters are enthusiastic about a different approach to utilising energy revenues. While a windfall tax on operators’ profits has been used to take the edge of the cost of living crisis, there’s significant support for these resources being deployed more strategically to accelerate the deployment of renewables.” 

Ryan Crighton, policy director at Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: “This year – more than any year – we need a reasoned debate about our energy future, and it is important that our policy makers take stock of what this poll is saying.

“Our planning system is in urgent need of reform, our grid infrastructure requires enormous sums of investment to meet the needs of tomorrow, and we need a progressive tax regime which encourages energy firms to invest in the UKCS and in renewables. This is where the public want political efforts to be focused.

“The path to net zero requires four things – and they span business, government and the public at large.

“First, we need to reduce demand, and that involves everyone. Right now, three-quarters of the UK’s energy consumption is derived from oil and gas. 

“Second, we need to develop new sources and ways of storing energy – such as hydrogen and offshore wind – to help us further diversify our energy mix.

“Third, and perhaps most importantly, we need the public and our politicians to understand and accept that this could easily take two, perhaps three decades, to deliver.

“And fourth, it requires us to find the most efficient way to source oil and gas in the meantime. Right now, that has to be from the North Sea, where the gas we produce is up to four times cleaner than imported LNG.”

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