Environmentalists have challenged the Scottish Government’s support for continued and expanded oil exploration ahead of a Scottish Parliamentary debate today (17 November 2011).

Friends of the Earth Scotland warns that there is a significant risk that the impacts of an oil spill off Scotland’s coast could be worse than that seen in the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

The charity also calls the Scottish Government’s rhetoric about Scotland leading the world in the transition to a low-carbon economy hypocritical in light of its support for tax breaks for big oil companies and ever more risky oil exploration in deeper water.

Francis Stuart, Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Policy and Parliamentary Officer, said: “The Scottish Government never misses a chance to talk up its low carbon economy ambitions, yet support for big oil tax breaks and ever deeper oil exploration are completely at odds with this and leavesScottish Ministers looking hypocritical.

“Continued and unquestioning support for the oil industry risks disaster too. The Scottish Government needs to plan a speedy and just transition to a genuinely low carbon economy, and back away from fossil fuel dependence, not prop up and expand upon existing, risky oil and gas, which are damaging our environment and driving dangerous climate change.”

BP’s oil response plan for a blow-out west of Shetland states that, in a worst-case scenario, around 75,000 barrels of oil a day for up to 140 days could be released into the North Sea, an amount that is significantly larger and much more damaging than the Gulf of Mexico spill.

The influential Energy and Climate Change Committee at the UK parliament has published a report into deep water drilling in the UK, identifying a number of problems which could leave UK taxpayers liable for considerable costs in the event of a major oil spill.

ENDS

For media enquiries, please contact: Per Fischer, Press Office, Friends of the Earth Scotland
 t: 0131 243 2719

Notes to Editors

1. The Scottish Government motion, expected to comfortably pass, is as follows: “Fergus Ewing: Oil and Gas Framework—That the Parliament recognises the continued importance of Scotland’s oil and gas sector to the Scottish and UK economies, its support for 196,000 jobs across Scotland and its contribution of £300 billion to the UK Exchequer over the past 30 years in real terms; recognises the long-term future of the industry, with up to 40% of the remaining total UK Continental Shelf oil and gas reserves worth £1 trillion; welcomes the strong confidence shown by recent industry investment plans announcing four new oil and gas projects valued at £10 billion over the next five years; supports the Scottish Government and its agencies in working to maintain and develop the long-term future of the oil and gas sector by improving the position of Aberdeen as a global supply chain hub, developing energy skills in the workforce and supporting collaboration between the oil and gas and low-carbon energy sectors; calls for a progressive approach to oil and gas taxation to encourage further deployment and extraction, and supports the findings of the PricewaterhouseCoopers report published on 3 November 2011 arguing that fiscal certainty and targeted incentives in the North Sea are required from the UK Government. Supported by: John Swinney.”

2. BP oil spill response plans for deep water well at North Uist
 www.greenpeace.org.uk/taxonomy/term/2897

3. UK Deepwater Drilling—Implications of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill – report
www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmselect/cmenergy/450/450vw.pdf

4. Friends of the Earth Scotland is * Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation * An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland * Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 77 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups – covering every continent. www.foe-scotland.org.uk