August 2021 /// Vol 242 No. 8

Features

Opinion: Giving Scotland’s green party an inch makes them a ruler

Taking a page from the Neville Chamberlain Handbook for Diplomacy, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is lobbying the UK to take actions that will ultimately lead to a disorganized and very costly end to fossil fuel development in the Scottish sector of the North Sea.

Cameron Wallace, World Oil

Taking a page from the Neville Chamberlain Handbook for Diplomacy, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is lobbying the UK to take actions that will ultimately lead to a disorganized and very costly end to fossil fuel development in the Scottish sector of the North Sea.

Using a recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report as a catalyst, Sturgeon saw an opportunity for the UK to demonstrate some climate proactivity in advance of COP26 meetings to be hosted in Glasgow later this year. It’s a delicate balance, as Scotland has already committed to significant changes to its energy mix, amounting to a 75% reduction of emissions by 2030. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry contributed some £9 billion to Scotland’s economy in 2019, while employing more than 101,000 Scots in highly-skilled, well-paying roles.

In her letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Sturgeon wrote “The signals we send at this time are of the utmost importance, and it is essential that we demonstrate global leadership on the challenging decisions that need to be made.” [Sounds reasonable – Ed.] “This must be based on the principle that those that have contributed to climate change, and gained the most, have a responsibility to lead the way in this transition.” [Ah, here it comes – Ed.]

Confiscating licenses. To score that extra climate credibility without pouring sugar into the gas tank of Scotland’s economic engine, Sturgeon has set about “reconsidering” offshore oil and gas licenses that have been granted, but upon which work has not yet started. It’s a narrow parcel of the complete oil and gas landscape, but it will make for a good press release. And not least, it’ll make the growing, pro-independence Scottish Greens party happy for the time being.

Unfortunately, that strategy is akin to hiring an arsonist to sweep a chimney.

The Scottish Greens party finds itself in a novel position as of late, having earned mainstream support from the Leave side during the referendum on Scottish independence. Today the party holds seven seats in the Scottish Parliament, with an additional member serving as Holyrood’s Presiding Officer. The net result of all this is that the Scottish First Minister is negotiating a cooperation deal with a coalition closely aligned with the radical European Green Party, which may result in the Scottish Greens earning ministerial seats.

Concurrent to these negotiations, the Scottish Greens demand that oil and gas licenses be revoked, beginning with the Cambo development west of the Shetland Islands. After existing licenses are pulled, the party plans to seek banning any new oil and gas permits.

Potential impacts. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how banning new permits can lead to the cancellation of existing rights to operate. In fact, it takes no imagination at all—just a look across the Atlantic to see how U.S. politicians are crippling their own oil and gas industry, without legal recourse (and in the case of permitting, in direct violation of legal recourse.)

A deadline-bound, politically driven swerve from oil and gas, which accounts for 78% of Scotland’s energy consumption, means lackluster economic results and opportunities missed for want of a more orderly process. Gutting 5% of the country’s GDP at the behest of a party that also wants universal basic income, a four-day work week and a stand-alone currency would lead to economic disruption of the highest order.

Nicola Sturgeon finds herself in an unenviable position, between ascendant forces within her government, and pressure to demonstrate some type of manageable solidarity with increasingly hysterical UN climate positions. Giving up too much, too quickly, however, will only hasten a negative outcome for Scotland.

Don’t give up the Sudetenland, Madam Sturgeon. It won’t be enough.

The Authors ///

Cameron Wallace is the Senior Digital Editor at World Oil.

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