The Scotsman

FM rejects call to ‘deal blow to Putin’ by increasing North Sea oil production

- By ALISTAIR GRANT alistair.grant@jpimedia.co.uk

Nicola Sturgeon has rejected calls to “deal a blow to Vladimir Putin” by backing an increase in oil and gas production in the North Sea.

The First Minister said the move would not be practical and stressed the climate crisis “has not gone away”.

Scottish Conservati­ve leader Douglas Ross said the war in Ukraine had “changed the situation” and called for production to be “maximised”.

At First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood yesterday, he said: “Russia’s appalling actions have put a renewed focus on energy security. In Scotland, we have the natural resources to protect our own supply and we have the resources to export to other countries to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.”

The UK and US have both announced bans on Russian oil imports, while the European Union is slashing its use of Russian gas.

Mr Ross quoted former SNP minister Fergus Ewing, now a backbenche­r, who argued “we need all the oil and gas production we can get for the short and the medium term”.

The Scottish Tory leader said: “We can protect Scottish jobs and we can secure our energy supply. First Minister, surely now is the time to maximise oil and gas production in Scotland using the energy on our own doorstep?”

Ms Sturgeon responded that Scotland and the UK are not dependent on Russian oil and gas in the way other countries are. She said only around 3 per cent of the UK’S gas supplies and around 8 per cent of its oil and petroleum supplies come from Russia.

Meanwhile, around 80 per cent of North Sea production is already exported, she said.

Ms Sturgeon also argued it was “not credible” to suggest the short-term solution to the energy crisis lies in increasing North Sea production, given the timescales and the practicali­ties involved.

She said: “Existing fields in the North Sea are not currently operating under capacity. Expanding existing fields is possible, but that would take months, if not years, and new fields take years, if not decades, to plan and develop.

“We shouldn’t go after solutions that might sound superficia­lly attractive but don’t stand scrutiny around the practicali­ties and the realities.”

She also called on UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak to take action to “shield households” from the impact of inflation as fuel, energy and food prices rise.

In the longer term, she said, “the action the world needs to take to reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels is exactly the same action the world needs to take to address the climate emergency”.

She added: “We must accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels to renewable and low carbon energy, and that’s what the Scottish Government remains focused on.”

Mr Ross insisted: “Russia’s war has changed the situation and we have to accept that. Scotland could deal a blow to Vladimir Putin by increasing domestic oil and gas production.

“We could increase that production now. We could end the need to import foreign oil and gas and export more to reduce internatio­nal reliance on Russian energy. It’s not the time to be ideologica­l, it’s the time to be practical and realistic.”

Ms Sturgeon said she was not being ideologica­l, but rather “trying to set out hard, practical reasons” why Mr Ross’ call would not work.

She said: “We don’t do anybody any favours if we put forward solutions that don’t provide a panacea in the short term.” Decisions over new oil and gas drilling sit with UK authoritie­s.

Deirdre Michie, chief executive of Offshore Energy UK, said there had to be “rapid investment in renewable energy plus investment to sustain the production of oil and gas”.

She said: “Production from the North Sea continues to decline, and without fresh investment, we will only increase our reliance on oil and gas imports while we go through the energy transition.”

But she added: “The UK offshore industry is changing and is already investing in renewable fuel and technology to harness power from wind and hydrogen to help decarbonis­e energy in the medium to long term.”

Ms Sturgeon also accused Russian president Vladimir Putin of committing war crimes in Ukraine.

The First Minister was speaking after Russian forces bombed a hospital in the city of Mariupol, killing three people, including a child, and injuring 17 others.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Yesterday’s developmen­ts were a new low, a low I believe all of us hoped we would never see – the targeting of children and babies in a maternity hospital.

“Vladimir Putin is committing, on a daily basis, crimes against internatio­nal law, he is committing crimes against humanity, he is committing war crimes. It is important to do everything that is possible to stop Vladimir Putin, but it is also important to ensure that he pays the severest price for the actions that he is undertakin­g and the crimes he is committing now.”

Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “Vladimir Putin must fail. But let’s also be clear Vladimir Putin is a war criminal and he must face justice.”

And Mr Ross said: “Yesterday, the tragic events hit a new low, with a children’s hospital reduced to rubble.it’s hard to express the anger and grief that we all feel at this appalling act.”

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