Call for lobbying ban in Scotland

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Call for lobbying ban following revelation that fossil fuel industry met MSPs 790 times in five years

These companies are waging a sustained and aggressive campaign to delay the climate solutions that will improve the lives of people in Scotland and around the world.

MSPs have met with the fossil fuel industry almost 800 times in the last five years, new figures show, prompting climate activists to call for a ban on such lobbying.

An investigation by Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoE) found that such meetings took place more than once a Scottish Parliament working day in the two years since the 2021 election, including on foreign trips and at UN climate conferences.

They included a banquet held by the Scottish Government at Edinburgh Castle for representatives of the hydrogen industry and attended by then-first minister Nicola Sturgeon, which happened while the COP26 summit was taking place in Glasgow in November 2021.

Aggressive campaign

The FoE analysis found that there were 790 such meetings between 2018 and 2023, 309 with MSPs who have served as Scottish Government ministers and 481 with backbench and opposition MSPs.

Almost 10% of the meetings – 78 in total, were with Michael Matheson MSP, who was net zero, energy and transport secretary from May 2021 to March 2023 and transport, infrastructure and connectivity secretary from June 2018 to May 2021.

Climate campaigners are calling for new rules to be created in Scotland to defend climate policy from oil company influence. They suggested that rules which exist to protect health policy from lobbying by the tobacco industry could be adapted to protect environmental plans.

Friends of the Earth Scotland fossil free campaigner Ric Lander said: “Oil companies have been allowed to pollute Scotland’s politics for too long. The Scottish Government needs to wake up to the fact that fossil fuel firms are the main cause of climate breakdown and realise that their central aim is to block climate progress.

“These companies are waging a sustained and aggressive campaign to delay the climate solutions that will improve the lives of people in Scotland and around the world. Scottish ministers have repeatedly failed to meet climate targets and do not have a credible just transition plan for energy workers.

A just transition

“Instead of welcoming big polluters with open arms, the Scottish Government should be focused on building climate solutions and meeting with the workers and communities impacted to ensure the transition harnesses their skills and responds to their needs.”

He added: “If Humza Yousaf’s government is truly 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.”

The investigation drew on data from the Scottish Parliament Lobbying Register and the Scottish Government’s monthly “Ministerial engagements, travel and gifts” report. The report found that incidents included a gathering in 2019, when MSPs from four parties attended a meeting inside the Shell offices in Aberdeen one week before voting on Scotland’s new climate targets.

These companies are waging a sustained and aggressive campaign to delay the climate solutions that will improve the lives of people in Scotland and around the world.

It also noted that fossil fuel companies gained access to Scottish Government representatives at the UN climate summit at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, and in Glasgow where then-finance secretary Kate Forbes met an Equinor representative at COP26 in the city.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The First Minister has been clear that any further extraction and use of fossil fuels must be consistent with Scotland’s climate obligations and Just Transition commitments. Our focus is on reducing emissions, meeting our energy security needs and delivering affordable energy supplies, whilst ensuring a just transition for our oil and gas workforce to a renewables and net-zero future.

“As part of our support for this transition, the people of Scotland would expect the First Minister to engage constructively with major employers and industries in Scotland, as he does with all sectors of society.”

Diverse energy future

Jenny Stanning, of industry body Offshore Energies UK, said: “The decarbonisation of Scotland is one of the greatest opportunities and challenges of our time and will only be delivered through collaboration between public and private capital. Policy decisions and rhetoric made today will be felt for decades to come, so prioritising a transition which is homegrown instead of wholly imported is vital.

“The reality of the energy transition is that we will need both oil and gas and renewables in an integrated system to deliver growth in Scotland and be an export powerhouse. 

"It is essential to have the right investment conditions and environment in Scotland, through supportive policy, that unlocks £200 billion of energy investment over the next decade while attracting and retaining the skilled people vital to delivering the transition.

“We will continue to engage proactively with the Scottish Government, and indeed politicians of all parties, to make sure we can fully grasp the opportunities of the energy transition and restore confidence to businesses so that investment is unlocked for a secure, strong, and diverse energy future.”

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Lucinda Cameron is a press reporter at PA Scotland 

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