Swinney signals intent to drop ‘presumption against’ stance

03/06/2024
First Minister John Swinney

JOHN Swinney has hinted at dropping the Scottish Government’s presumption against new oil and gas when it publishes its final energy strategy later this summer.

The First Minister inherited the policy from Nicola Sturgeon’s government, which announced the “presumption against” when it signed the now-mothballed Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Green Party.

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Mr Swinney has launched an “exploration” of his party’s North Sea policy, amid industry warnings that up to 100,000 jobs are at stake at next month’s General Election.

The leader of the SNP, fighting an election in his first month in office, signalled that only a “strong” and “robust” oil and gas sector will be able to contribute to net zero.

He said: “I want the Scottish government to work closely and carefully with the oil and gas sector to ensure its sustainability.

“We need the oil and gas sector to contribute to the transition to net zero, so it has to be strong enough and robust enough to do that.

“In addition to that, I want to make sure that the sector is able to contribute to the objectives of energy security that we’ve set out in our policy programme.

“It’s an exploration of our position, that’s how I would describe it. The Scottish government wants to work with the oil and gas sector to ensure its fiscal sustainability.”

Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce’s 39th Energy Transition survey, published last week, set out that any incoming UK Government will have 100 days to save 100,000 North Sea jobs.

The latter figure, first reported by independent analysis from Stifel has been rejected by Labour.

But Mr Swinney said he isn’t prepared to cause economic damage to the North-east.

He said: “I’m interested in achieving net zero but I’m also interested in doing that in a way that does not cause economic damage to the economy of Scotland, particularly to the North-east of Scotland.

“So that has to be a managed transition to ensure that we undertake that transition as effectively as we possibly can, minimising our economic damage as a consequence of a transition that has got to be made.”

On publishing the finalised energy strategy, he added: “There are a whole range of different government publications that I committed to publish before the summer recess which I am not going to be able to publish because of the restrictions in the pre-election guidance that comes into place.

“Documents such as the energy strategy will not be able to be published.”

In response to suggestions that the government will drop its presumption against, Mark Ruskell, the Scottish Greens climate spokesperson, said: “The science in clear.”

“Any shift away from a presumption against new oil and gas exploration would be an act of climate betrayal.

“It would undermine years of progress we have made in Scotland and send a terrible message to young people and future generations.

“There is so much potential in our renewable sectors, and that is where we need our focus to be, not on trying to extract even more oil from our North Sea.”

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