Most Scots surveyed back Rishi Sunak on new oil and gas licences


THE SCOTTISH public backs the awarding of new North Sea oil and gas licences by a factor of more than two to one, according to a new poll conducted by Survation and published today by advisory firm True North.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited the North East of Scotland to make the the announcement last month, in a drive to bolster domestic oil and gas production during the UK’s transition to net zero.

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54% of respondents to the True North poll agree that the UK government was right to grant new oil and gas licences, compared to just 23% who believe this was the wrong decision.

The poll also found that 75% of Scots favour domestic production over more carbon-intensive energy imports from overseas. 

In a rebuke to politicians who have sought to demonise the energy industry, four times as many people see the North Sea sector as having a positive impact upon the UK economy versus just under 14% who consider it a negative influence.

Three out of every five people surveyed were unconvinced that the UK government’s Energy Profits Levy, or ‘windfall tax’ on oil and gas profits, was proving an effective tool in either reducing their household bills or in driving energy firms to diversify their business from hydrocarbons towards renewable generation.

The latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures published last week showed that Scotland’s share of oil and gas revenues rose to a record £9.4 billion in 2022/23, on account of receipts from the windfall tax. 

Commenting, True North Managing Partner Fergus Mutch said: “In a series of polls commissioned by True North over the past year, we’ve looked closely how the UK’s energy sector is perceived by the public at large and whether this tallies with government policy.

“Overall, the Scottish public considers the energy sector an economic force for good. They want North Sea reserves used while we still need oil and gas as part of the mix as we transition to greener sources of energy. 

“By utilising those resources at hand we can ensure that the jobs and economic benefits are realised here in the UK, and avoid the cliff-edge scenario of investment and critical skills being lost to overseas.

“The recent announcement of new oil and gas licences gives industry greater clarity and grounds for confidence — and our poll puts public opinion in Scotland squarely behind such an approach.

“Nobody is in any doubt about the scale of the challenge in reaching net zero and the effort that must go into decarbonising energy to tackle climate change. That task will require both focus and finance in close partnership between industry and government. 

“But the protection and creation of jobs and need to ensure Scotland’s world-class energy leads that global energy revolution means we must manage the transition carefully. 

“The Energy Profits Levy, or so-called ‘windfall tax’, is another barrier to unlocking the critical investment in energy that is required. While it might, in principle, have popular appeal our study shows that people are unconvinced of its impact in lowering the burden of household bills or in driving firms to invest in renewables.” 

Ryan Crighton, Policy Director at Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce challenged the Scottish Government to reflect in light of the poll’s findings, saying: “The Scottish Government’s presumption against oil and gas must go and be replaced with a policy position which will deliver energy security and transition in tandem.

“If the alternative is importing oil and gas at a greater carbon cost, then we must favour domestic production. It’s simple, it’s pragmatic and it commits us to sourcing the fossil fuels we need in a manner which minimises emissions and secures tens of thousands of Scottish jobs.

“Analysis shows that domestically produced gas is on average almost four times cleaner than importing gas in LNG form. This is because of both the way the gas is transferred and, in some cases, the methods of extraction.

“Helping to deliver UK energy security and the drive to reach net zero go hand-in-hand. The analysis shows that domestically-produced gas creates significantly fewer emissions than average imports, and that continuing to produce gas in the UK as cleanly as possible will assist in the drive to cut emissions.”

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