Frankie Boyle calls on PM to reject plans for Rosebank oil field

Comedian Frankie Boyle and climate campaigner Vanessa Nakate have urged the Prime Minister to throw out plans to develop a new oil and gas field in the North Sea.

On Tuesday, activists and organisations, which included the Women’s Institute and RSPB, wrote to Rishi Sunak to urge him to reject plans for the Rosebank field, which is planned to be built 80 miles off the coast of Shetland.

Energy minister Grant Shapps is expected to make a decision on whether or not to approve the project imminently, with the field scheduled to start production in 2026.

But Mr Boyle said “approving Rosebank makes no sense” and “we’re in a climate emergency, renewable energy is so much cheaper, and anyway this is oil for export”.

Vanessa Nakate
Ugandan climate justice activist Vanessa Nakate (Jane Barlow/PA)

“The only winners would be the oil and gas companies that own these reserves off the Shetland coast,” he said.

“Why we’re subsidising its development to the tune of half a billion pounds, when they clearly don’t need the cash and there are plenty more worthy causes, is a mystery.”

Rosebank contains up to 350 million barrels of oil, and is one of the largest untapped discoveries in UK waters.

It could produce 69,000 barrels of oil per day – about 8% of the UK’s projected daily output between 2026 and 2030 – and could also produce 44 million cubic feet of gas every day, Equinor, the Norwegian firm behind the project, said.

Grant Shapps wearing hard hat and hi vis jacket
Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Grant Shapps (Jamie Lorriman/PA)

Campaigners against Rosebank have said it would have a devastating impact on the climate, if approved, and taxpayers would effectively subsidise 90% of the development cost.

In a YouGovDirect poll, more than two thirds of the 2,193 people asked said they were against taxpayers subsidising oil and gas firms to develop new fields in the North Sea.

They were asked between on February 1-2 as part of a poll commissioned by the group Uplift, which advocates fossil-free fuels and helps co-ordinate the Stop Rosebank and Stop Cambo campaigns.

The open letter to the Prime Minister on Tuesday also said the development would “not help energy security” with supplies “most likely to be exported and will not lower energy costs in the UK”.

Vanessa Nakate said the UK needed to “care about people around the world who are already living with the climate crisis, and protect young people and generations to come who will have to face the consequences of these decisions”.

Meanwhile in a separate poll by Opinium for Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), 36% of the public believes the Scottish government should try to extend production beyond the next 20 years.

A further 23% of the 1,000 Scottish adults asked said the government should do nothing and let production decline as forecast.

David Whitehouse, OEUK’s chief executive, said: “This is an excellent vote of confidence in the people in this industry who work hard to produce the energy we need to power and heat our homes and businesses.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The UK is leading the world on climate change and our British Energy Security Strategy sets out our plan to supercharge our domestic renewable energy and nuclear capacity, as well as supporting our North Sea oil and gas industry as we transition to lower carbon energy.

“No decision has yet been made regarding the proposed Rosebank field and development proposals for oil fields under existing licences are a matter for the regulators, who consider the impact on the environment when making their judgment.”