Fergus Ewing, who served as minister for business, energy and tourism during the SNP majority years of 2011 to 2016 and later as cabinet secretary for rural economy and tourism under Nicola Sturgeon prior to the May 2021 election, has developed into a thorn in the side of the First Minister.
He has openly questioned the move away from oil and gas in the north east of Scotland and was applauded by Scottish Conservative MSPs in the chamber during First Minister’s Questions on Thursday.
The MSP for Inverness and Nairn called for a “thriving oil and gas sector” in Scotland, and warned without it the potential within renewables in Scotland would be lost.
He said: “Does she agree that more gas produced here in the UKCS means less imported LNG, cutting emissions by nearly 300 per cent.
“Should we in Scotland not be in the lead in decarbonising opportunities, offshore wind to power platforms, hydrogen technology and carbon capture storage which the climate change panel says is vital to get to Net Zero.
“Does she recognize that without a thriving oil and gas sector, Scotland may simply lose these major opportunities to lead on Net Zero because it is their skills, their technical expertise and their operational experience that are essential to deliver them.”
The question comes after the controversial Cambo oilfield received a two-year extension to its license, with the Scottish Conservatives putting pressure on the First Minister to change her oppositional stance to the field.
Ms Sturgeon, who sacked Mr Ewing following her re-election as First Minister last May, handing the rural affairs portfolio to Mairi Gougeon and the tourism brief to business minister, Ivan McKee, said she welcomed the efforts of the oil and gas sector to “ decarbonise”.
She also said the SNP grandee had played a “really important role” during his time in government, and said “nobody wants to increase dependence” on energy imports.
The SNP leader said: “Of course we have to also think about the impact on the environment of the use of oil and gas, that’s an important part of getting to Net Zero as well.
“I do agree and have made clear my agreement that the skills, the expertise and indeed the infrastructure of the oil and gas sector will be extremely important in making sure that we make that transition to renewable and low carbon sources of energy.
“We need to make that transition as quickly as possible for a variety of reasons, and the importance of that has been underlined in recent weeks, but we need to do that fairly and justly as well.
“When he was a minister with these responsibilities, Fergus Ewing played a really important role in helping ensure that the government is on the right track.
“Nobody wants to increase dependence on imports of oil and gas but we must therefore ensure that we are investing properly in the transition to renewables.”
Want to hear more from The Scotsman’s politics team? Check out the latest episode of our political podcast, The Steamie.
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