Campaigners demand Humza Yousaf closes the SNP’s ‘open-door’ to big polluters

Humza Yousaf has been urged to stop lobbyists for fossil fuels engaging with the SNP led Scottish government
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Friends of the Earth Scotland has released research into the “shocking extent of the oil and gas industry lobbying of the Scottish Government under Nicola Sturgeon“. At the same time, the group is calling on new SNP first minister Humza Yousaf to put a stop to the relationship between the SNP and big fossil fuel polluters.

SNP: ‘open-door policy’ for fossil fuel lobbyists

According to the research, representatives of the oil and gas industry lobbied the Scottish government more than 200 times during Nicola Sturgeon’s time as first minister. Friends of the Earth Scotland said in a press release:

Campaigners are concerned that the influence and lobbying by the fossil fuel industry has weakened the Scottish Government’s climate commitments and is slowing action on the transition away from fossil fuels. Oil lobbyists met Ministers as they were preparing the Climate Change Act in 2019, in the runup to COP26, and ahead of the recently published Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan.

The fossil fuel industry has made hundreds of billions in profits in recent years as household bills have soared. Oil companies are pushing to expand and drill new fields despite the devastating climate impacts of burning fossil fuels. …

The analysis revealed that Ministers met oil company lobbyists nearly once a week over 4 years. Meetings uncovered include then Finance Secretary Kate Forbes meeting with oil company Equinor during the COP26 climate conference, Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse meeting with BP and Shell in consecutive years at the opera in Florence, Italy, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met with the President of Petrochina at Bute House.

It analysed the SNP-led Scottish government’s Lobbying Register, as well as ministerial diaries. Friends of the Earth Scotland found that:

  • From March 2018 (when the Lobbying Register began) to December 2022, there were 212 recorded meetings between Scottish Government ministers and representatives of the fossil fuel industry.
  • Of these meetings, junior ministers were present at 115 meetings, Cabinet Secretaries 71 times, Special Advisors 26 times and the First Minister attended 12 of the meetings.
  • Michael Matheson MSP and Paul Wheelhouse MSP were the industry’s favourites, both clocking up 39 meetings each.
  • The other members of the Government who met the industry more than 10 times were Ivan McKee MSP, Richard Lochhead MSP and Kate Forbes MSP.
  • SSE was the most active company with 62 meetings followed by BP with 32 and oil lobby group Offshore Energies UK with 22Scottish Government meetings.

False solutions

According to Friends of the Earth Scotland, the Scottish government:

Read on...

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is still heavily reliant on Carbon Capture and Storage and hydrogen to meet their climate targets, technologies which are backed by the oil and gas companies as a way to prolong the lifespan of the industry. However, these technologies are unproven at the scale envisaged and it is indisputable that they will not be developed in time to meet the need for urgent action.

In many instances it is clear from the research that the fossil fuel industry scheduled meetings with Ministers in the lead up to decisions being made that would impact their business.

It added:

The fossil fuel industry has had a significant impact on climate policy globally, often pushing for weaker regulations, denying climate science and blocking the transition to renewable energy.

The top 10 fossil fuel companies and industry bodies doing the lobbying were:

  • SSE – 62.
  • BP – 32.
  • Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) – 22.
  • Shell – 15.
  • INEOS – 12.
  • Centrica – 11.
  • Net Zero Technology Centre – 10.
  • Equinor – 8.
  • Total Energies – 7.
  • Wood Group – 4.

The ‘lobbying machine’

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s head of campaigns, Mary Church, said:

Burning fossil fuels is the major driver of climate breakdown yet the arsonists are being asked how to put out the fire. Under Sturgeon it is clear that the Scottish Government has had an open-door policy towards the fossil fuel industry for years.

Whilst the true scale of fossil fuel company lobbying is likely to be even greater than what is detailed here, this data, and the Scottish Government’s continued overreliance on speculative technologies that are designed to prolong the life of oil and gas, show that the industry’s lobbying machine has been allowed to exert a harmful influence over decision making on climate and energy.

The fossil fuel industry has known about the danger of climate breakdown for decades and not only failed to act, but deliberately buried and obscured the truth about their role in driving it. They have repeatedly proven that they cannot be trusted to deliver a just energy transition. If tobacco companies can be banned from lobbying about healthcare, then by the same principle the fossil fuel industry must be stopped from lobbying on climate and energy.

She said that in order to “avoid catastrophic climate impacts”, Yousaf and the SNP government have:

the chance to chart a new path away from fossil fuels without the industry trying to call the shots. If his Government is serious about tackling the climate crisis and delivering a just transition, it must cut ties with the fossil fuel industry and ban them from lobbying.

Featured image via Wikimedia – Scottish Government (cropped to 770 x 403)

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