SNP candidate accused of pretending his party supports new oil and gas drilling

A North Sea oil platform, seen on a sunny, calm day
The SNP's position on North Sea oil extraction seems increasingly confused - Julian Waters/Adobe

An SNP election candidate has been accused of attempting to hoodwink voters after he claimed his party supports new oil and gas drilling in the North Sea.

Glen Reynolds, the nationalist candidate in the battleground seat of West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, insisted the SNP had given “a green light on oil and gas licensing” and had “no problem” with exploiting the huge Rosebank field.

The Scottish Tories, who are hoping to retain the northeast seat, claimed the SNP was now actively misleading voters, following weeks of confusion over the party’s stance on the issue.

Nicola Sturgeon, who brought the Scottish Greens into her government, introduced an official policy of a presumption against new oil and gas drilling. She opposed Rosebank and denounced its development as an act of “environmental vandalism”.

Her position was endorsed by her successor Humza Yousaf, who said he was “disappointed” when Rosebank was given the go-ahead by the UK Government.

A portrait shot of Glen Reynolds, in front of the sea
Glen Reynolds is standing as an SNP candidate in Aberdeenshire

Mr Reynolds, however, claimed his party enthusiastically supported new drilling and suggested passing climate compatibility tests would be a formality.

We are in favour of oil and gas licences as long as they are backed with a climate compatibility statement,” he said.

“This isn’t a new thing, it’s something the Tories were utilising in 2021. So it’s a clear message, there’s a green light on oil and gas licensing without any shadow of doubt from the SNP.

“With Rosebank, for example, there’s no problem with that in terms of a licence that’s already been granted.

“There’s not a problem with Rosebank…climate compatibility tests are completely fine in terms of moving forward, we need to do this in partnership with the oil and gas industry.”

John Swinney has repeatedly avoided saying whether he supports licensing of new North Sea projects, instead saying each project would have to pass a climate compatibility test.

John Swinney speaking at a podium in front of a saltire backdrop labelled 'For Scotland'
John Swinney has proved hard to pin down on North Sea drilling - Michael Boyd/PA

Last week, the First Minister labelled Rishi Sunak a “climate denier” and said his decision to license 100 new North Sea projects was “utterly irresponsible.”

The claim that climate compatibility tests would have to be overcome is the same position adopted by Ms Sturgeon. However, she acknowledged that in practice major developments would not pass them.

In Nov 2021, Ms Sturgeon said: “I don’t think we can go on extracting oil and gas forever, and I don’t think we can continue to give the go ahead to new oil fields.”

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Reynolds went on to claim that the SNP no longer supports the windfall tax on energy companies, nor the Chancellor’s recent extension of it to 2029.

Climate activists are hidden behind the large banner they carry with 'Stop Rosebank' in London's Parliament Square
Climate activists protest in London against the exploitation of Rosebank, which was approved by the UK government in Sept 2023 - Kristian Buus/Getty

Andrew Bowie, the Tory candidate in the seat, said the SNP was “trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes” by “pretending they are somehow friends of the oil and gas industry”.

“Until very recently they had spent years in coalition with the Green Party,” Mr Bowie said. “They had a presumption against oil and gas licences.

“They voted against the oil and gas licensing bill, they were one of the first parties to call for the imposition of a windfall tax.

“Now they are going out to the northeast of Scotland to communities and businesses, pretending to be friends with the oil and gas industry.”

Mr Reynolds this week also denied being a supporter of Vladimir Putin, after embarrassing social media posts emerged which the Tories said suggested he was unfit for office.

The Prime Minister wears hi-vis and a hard hat and is pictured with an oil executive and his Energy Secretary
Rishi Sunak visited a North Sea oil platform this week - Leon Neal/PA

After Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, now seen as a precursor to its full blown invasion of Ukraine, he said he was “somewhat cynical of anti-Russian and anti-Putin rhetoric”.

He also urged his social media followers to read a Putin speech in Dec 2014, describing it as “significant and illuminating”.

He then posted a link to a news outlet which praised the Russian leader and condemned the “corporate western mainstream ‘presstitute’ media”.

The SNP said Mr Reynolds condemned Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and had been trying to warn that failures in Western policy could embolden the Russian leader.