Nicola Sturgeon has refused to condemn comments made by Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie, who suggested only the “hard right” now support new oil and gas extraction.
Mr Harvie’s remarks in the wake of Shell’s decision to withdraw from the controversial Cambo scheme, sparked a backlash from prominent SNP figures in the north-east.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross pressed the first minister on whether she believes it is a “hard right policy to support Scotland’s oil and gas industry”, as the pair clashed over the future of the North Sea sector.
The SNP leader declined to criticise the comments made by her coalition colleague but said she believes in “supporting a just transition away from fossil fuels to renewable and low carbon sources of energy”.
‘Insult to every single worker’
Mr Ross said: “Those statements are an insult to every single worker in the North Sea sector and they should be condemned by the first minister but as we’ve just heard they won’t be.”
“And it’s because, as the Greens keep boasting, they forced the SNP into and I quote ‘a massive change in direction over oil and gas’.”
Mr Ross took part in the exchanges by remote link because he is self-isolating after a colleague tested positive for Covid-19.
At one point, Holyrood Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone had to ask MSPs to quieten down. Mr Ross was being heckled amid the growing scandal surrounding Christmas party held at No 10 during lockdown.
Ms Sturgeon joked it is “very clear that references to being right wing are references Douglas Ross seems to take very personally”.
She added: I’ll leave people to judge why that might be the case.
“What is putting potentially North Sea oil and gas workers at risk right now is the UK Government’s failure to invest as a priority in the Acorn carbon capture project in the north-east.
“Perhaps a bit less political rhetoric from Douglas Ross and a bit more encouraging his colleagues in the UK Government if they can find the time from their other pursuits at the moment to prioritise investments that Scotland badly needs.”
‘Many disgusting things in politics’
Mr Ross claimed it was “disgusting that the first minister joked and laughed about a comment from one of her ministers that has been so hurtful to people employed in the North Sea sector and is so harmful”.
But Ms Sturgeon fired back that people have witnessed “many disgusting things in politics but none of them are on the part of this Scottish Government”.
She added: “I almost feel a little bit of sympathy today because I know he must be deeply mortified about the actions and behaviour of his colleagues in the UK Government but that is no excuse for throwing around unfounded accusations and trying to cause concern on the part of oil and gas workers just now.”