It’s time to move beyond oil and gas - Lorna Slater

Last week saw the publication of the Scottish Government’s energy strategy. What it offers is a bold, ambitious and positive path to a renewable future.

Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity
Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity

For the first time, this strategy proposes an end to support for new fossil fuel drilling projects. At the heart of the vision is a presumption against new exploration for oil and gas in the North Sea and a position of no support for onshore oil and gas or coal extraction

It means that Scotland is one of the first countries in the world to have significant fossil fuel reserves while also accepting that we need to move on and leave some of them in the ground.

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Scotland played an instrumental role in fuelling the industrial revolution through the use of our coal reserves. Similarly, the North Sea oil boom put our country at the forefront of the global oil and gas industry for decades.

The plan isn’t only notable for what it opposes, but also for the positive transition and transformation that it envisages.

It commits to a substantial increase in renewables, with a fair and just transition for our communities.

The plan lays out a path for more efficient wind farms, both on and offshore, a big expansion of marine and solar technology, a renewed focus on cutting energy demand and the use of new technologies.

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These are all long-held Green ambitions and I am delighted that they are finally becoming a reality. It shows the sea change that is taking place in policy and underlines the impact that we are having with the Scottish Greens in government.

The decarbonisation of our economy and the expansion of renewable energy were key commitments of the Bute House Agreement which we negotiated with the Scottish Government, and I am delighted to see us taking such a big step towards them.

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The work that we are doing in Scotland is vital, but, unfortunately, when it comes to energy policy, so many of the biggest decisions are being made by a Westminster government that is taking a very different approach.

At the same time as we are planning for a greener and better future beyond fossil fuels, they are doubling down on them. In the last 12 months alone they have announced 100 new oil and gas drilling licences and given permission for a new coal mine.

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This isn't good enough. Carbon burnt anywhere impacts on people everywhere. The climate crisis is a global crisis and it needs all governments to work together and to show the same kind of leadership that Scotland is finally taking.

The stakes could not be higher, and there can be no room for complacency. We won’t get any second chance, so there really is no time to waste if we are to have any kind of sustainable future.

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This week, Scotland took a big step towards a fairer, greener and better future for people and planet. It’s time for Downing Street to do the same.

Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity