THE UK Government is right to award hundreds more oil and gas licences in the North Sea – and Britain should seek to meet domestic demand for fossil fuels through domestic production, the majority of Scots believe.

However, new polling data from communications firm True North also reveals that the majority of people think the windfall tax on oil and gas has largely failed in forcing energy giants to move towards renewables.

The news comes from a Survation poll which also found that support for Scottish independence has held steady, but Labour are gaining ground on the SNP in voting intention and may match their seat count at the next General Election.

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Figures released on Friday show that 54% of people said the Tory government was right to grant more than 100 new oil and gas licences in its bid to “max out” North Sea production, while 23% of people disagreed. The remainder said they did not know.

Asked if the UK should meet its oil and gas needs with domestic production, 74% said it should while just 10% said it should not. The majority (56% vs 28%) also said that the North Sea industry had a positive impact on the UK economy.

The UK currently exports around 80% of the oil that is extracted from the North Sea, according to Government figures.

And according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), imports of oil topped exports by around £1.7 billion in 2021.

The ONS reported: “The UK imported £30.0bn of oil in 2021 (£17.6bn crude oil, £12.4bn refined oil), and exported £28.3bn of oil (£17.9bn crude oil, £10.4bn refined oil).”

The National: Ministers are committed to new oil and gas licences in the North Sea (Jane Barlow/PA)

Elsewhere, the polling suggests that the Tories’ “Energy Profits Levy” – its windfall tax on the oil and gas industry – is seen as ineffective in reducing energy bills or forcing a move to renewables.

Of the 1022 Scots asked in the survey, 28% said the Energy Profits Levy had been effective at reducing their household bills, while 58% said it had not been.

And asked if the windfall tax had effectively encouraged energy giants to shift into renewables, just 23% said it had done so while 58% said it had not.

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The latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures published last week showed that Scotland’s share of oil and gas revenues rose to a record £9.4 billion in 2022/23, on account of receipts from the windfall tax.

True North managing partner Fergus Mutch (below) said: “In a series of polls commissioned by True North over the past year, we’ve looked closely how the UK’s energy sector is perceived by the public at large and whether this tallies with government policy.

“Overall, the Scottish public considers the energy sector an economic force for good. They want North Sea reserves used while we still need oil and gas as part of the mix as we transition to greener sources of energy.

The National:

“By utilising those resources at hand we can ensure that the jobs and economic benefits are realised here in the UK, and avoid the cliff-edge scenario of investment and critical skills being lost to overseas.

“The recent announcement of new oil and gas licences gives industry greater clarity and grounds for confidence — and our poll puts public opinion in Scotland squarely behind such an approach.

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“Nobody is in any doubt about the scale of the challenge in reaching net zero and the effort that must go into decarbonising energy to tackle climate change. That task will require both focus and finance in close partnership between industry and government.

“But the protection and creation of jobs and need to ensure Scotland’s world-class energy leads that global energy revolution means we must manage the transition carefully.

“The Energy Profits Levy, or so-called ‘windfall tax’, is another barrier to unlocking the critical investment in energy that is required. While it might, in principle, have popular appeal, our study shows that people are unconvinced of its impact in lowering the burden of household bills or in driving firms to invest in renewables.”

The Survation poll of 1022 Scots aged 16 or older was conducted from August 15-18.