New oil licences are ‘wrong move’, says first minister

First Minister Humza Yousaf

THE FIRST minister has criticised the awarding of new North Sea oil and gas licences as the “wrong move”.

Humza Yousaf said he was a “big supporter” of the Scottish energy sector but favours a transition to renewables.

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The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), the industry regulator, has offered an initial 27 licences through the 33rd offshore licensing round.

“I think it’s the wrong move, particularly given the extreme threat of the climate crisis that we’re facing, and we’re seeing the impacts of in this country, let alone right across the world,” Mr Yousaf said yesterday.

“I’m a big supporter, of course, of our gas industry and the workers who work in it. But I’m equally a supporter of transitioning towards renewables.

“And I believe that the North-east in particular, could transition from the oil and gas capital of Europe to being the renewables capital, and net-zero capital of Europe.”

Demand outstrips supply

Offshore Energies said about two thirds of the UK’s North Sea fields, some 180 out of 284, are due to be depleted by 2030.

The UK already imports about 25% of its oil and gas requirements as domestic demand outstrips production.

The trade body warned that unless there was continued investment in the North Sea fields the UK would have to rely on imports for 80% of its oil and gas by 2030.

Ryan Crighton, policy director at Aberdeen & Grampian chamber of commerce, said that about 90,000 jobs in Scotland were supported by oil and gas activity.

He said: “UK oil production fell to an all-time low of 38 million tonnes in 2022, and it will plummet to 22 million tonnes in 2030 unless new wells are drilled.

“Where the alternative is importing oil or gas at a greater carbon cost, then we must favour domestic production.

“It’s better for jobs, it’s better for our economy, 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.”

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