Scotland is being shown up on a global stage by the “devastating” decision to favour clean energy schemes in England ahead of Aberdeenshire, the SNP’s Westminster chief claimed.
MP Ian Blackford reacted after the UK energy minister, Greg Hands, announced the Scottish plan to develop “carbon capture” technology would only be a “back-up” bid.
Instead of the Acorn project at St Fergus, near Peterhead, Mr Hands picked two schemes in northern England to go forward in the first round of bids on Tuesday.
Mr Blackford said the move showed Conservatives in the north-east were not being listened to by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The imagery of this a couple of weeks from COP26 is not great.
– Ian Blackford MP
He claimed 15,000 jobs were being jeopardised and warned against sluggish movement towards renewables – or risk losing fledgling industry from Scotland.
The UK Government decision on carbon capture comes just over two weeks from the beginning of the COP26 summit on climate change, which will bring international leaders to Glasgow.
“It’s not great – we’re pretty devastated about it and what it means for us,” he said.
“The imagery of this a couple of weeks from COP26 is not great.
“Of course there are competing bids that have to be looked at. But we know the Acorn project met the criteria.
“The north-east of Scotland is the home of the oil and gas industry.
“To a large extent the infrastructure already exists.”
What is the St Fergus scheme?
The Acorn project planned to use pipelines to store CO2 under the North Sea.
It was seen by many to be a key part of efforts to tackle climate change and diversify the local economy.
Tories admitted the decision was disappointing after promises in the past.
Mr Blackford said the scheme is important beyond the north-east, including Grangemouth where energy firm Ineos has a major base.
The Scottish Government has announced plans to invest £500million to smooth the path from fossil fuel-reliant jobs to renewable jobs, called a “just transition”.
“We need the UK Government to step up to the plate and they’ve failed to do that,” he said.
“Let’s be honest, there is a challenge for all of us in that transition to that green economy.
“This is such an integral part of that transition.”
‘A merry dance’
He said the Acorn project could support 15,000 “well paid” jobs.
Mr Blackford said he tried to get a meeting with UK Government business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, adding: “The minister has led us on a merry dance.
“We still haven’t had a meeting. We have a meeting next week, after the announcement.”
In a swipe at his political opponents in the north-east, he added: “The Scottish Conservative are not important enough to the Prime Minister because they haven’t been listened to.
“This is bad news for Scotland.”
He described advances in green industries including tidal marine energy in a wider push away from renewables.
Mr Blackford warned: “This is an industry we can lose from our domestic shores.”
Mr Blackford likened the country to a “burning platform” and warned the government must to do more to speed up the shift to renewables.
“I want COP26 to be a success for everybody,” he said.
“We are on a burning platform and at the moment we are not doing enough to get to the position we need.
“In some respects COP26 is the last opportunity.
“I’ve highlighted some of the things, carbon capture and storage and whether we have been bold enough. I’ve talked about offshore marine. And of course we need to drive down fossil fuel consumption.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Hands confirmed that the Hynet and East Coast Clusters would be “track 1 clusters for the mid-2020s”.
He added: “If the clusters represent value for money for the consumer and the taxpayer then subject to final decisions of ministers, they will receive support under the government’s CCUS programme.
“We are also announcing the Scottish Cluster as a reserve cluster if a back-up is needed.
“A reserve cluster is one which met the eligibility criteria and performed to a good standard against the evaluation criteria.”
On Tuesday, North East Tory MSP Liam Kerr said: “The Scottish Conservatives have been pushing hard for the north-east to be at the forefront of CCUS.
“That will not change and it still will be a UK and world leader.”