Questions have been raised over the power and influence of energy companies following analysis by The Ferret revealing how key sectors dominate Scottish lobbying.
The Ferret categorised 711 organisations that lobbied Scottish Government ministers and advisors since the register was introduced in 2018 to increase transparency.
Only regulated lobbying – which means face-to-face and zoom calls – has to be registered. While entries on the lobbying register dropped dramatically in 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions, the energy sector was second only to industry in the number of times it lobbied ministers last year.
With world leaders meeting at UN climate conference COP26 in Glasgow later this year, and the Scottish Government committed to a “just transition” away from fossil fuels, environmental campaign organisations like Greenpeace said the figures showed oil and gas companies were leaning on the government and “betraying people and planet” in the process.
A wide range of companies, including oil and gas and renewable companies, carried out regulated lobbying 42 times last year, compared with 59 for industry. Both sectors had other regular phone meetings with ministers, which are not reflected in the register.
Energy organisations – including those chasing multi-million pound renewable contracts and Scottish Government support – had a total of 249 entries in register, which started in March 2018,199 of which were by companies. A further 27 were with industry bodies.
Environmental charities were also well represented. Since March 2018 they lobbied ministers 155 times with 38 entries for 2020. They lobbied ministers on a wide range of issues, from land conservation to emissions.
The environmental impact of Brexit, restoring peatlands, climate targets and reducing carbon emissions, were the subject of meetings from environmental lobbying charities such as WWF and Friends of the Earth.
Meanwhile the biggest energy lobbyists such as Scottish Power, Shell and BP spoke to ministers only about energy projects.
In one meeting with energy minister Paul Wheelhouse last February, energy giant Shell covered “the important role of gas in the energy transition”.
The global oil and gas company also raised “the importance of balanced messaging in the lead up” to COP26 as well as “the need to highlight the role of the oil and gas industry as a key player in making the energy transition work”.
It also raised “the need for revenue support for offshore floating wind and carbon capture and storage”.
In another meeting last year, oil and gas giant BP discussed “energy transition more generally and the importance of oil and gas in the future” with the minister, as well as BP’s “carbon capture and storage interests”. The company also used a meeting to highlight its increasing share of hydrogen markets and its support of new woodland.
Lobbying meetings were also held with trade body Oil and Gas UK. In one meeting with energy minister Paul Wheelhouse the organisation provided a briefing on “carbon capture storage, hydrogen exports, missions reductions and jobs”.
Environmentalists have raised concerns about both carbon capture and hydrogen, which they claim are not the most effective solutions to the climate crisis.
Liz Murray, head of Scottish campaigns and policy at Global Justice Now, said:“It’s deeply concerning that big energy and finance lobbyists seem to have so much access to Scottish government ministers.
“With Glasgow hosting the COP26 summit this year, the Scottish government should have no truck with big business lobbyists from sectors that have played a key role in driving the climate crisis. Nicola Sturgeon needs to break with Westminster’s corporate greenwashing agenda and commit to real climate justice.
“If the Scottish government is serious about a green transition, they should listen to climate justice campaigners and throw their weight fully behind a comprehensive global green new deal that radically drives down carbon emissions, supports the transition of workers to new, green sectors and empowers the communities upended by the climate crisis.”
Sam Chetan-Welsh, political campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “Big Oil is leaning hard on politicians to keep their polluting and declining industry on life support.
“The result is that the Scottish Government’s so-called ‘just transition’ is a betrayal of both workers and the climate.
“Scottish Government has made time to listen to industry giants but has failed to adequately consult workers themselves, or climate scientists.”
Oil and Gas UK communications director Natalie Coupar, said: “OGUK is proud to champion our changing industry to all parliamentarians on a cross-party basis and do so in an open and transparent manner.”
The UK’s North Sea transition deal showed how oil and gas producing countries can transition away from fossil fuels “in a way that leaves no one behind”, she said, and highlighted that Oil and Gas UK continues “to work constructively with all stakeholders to deliver an inclusive transition”.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “We are wholly committed to ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change by 2045. Our journey to net zero will be transformative – not least across the energy sector – and it is vital that we work together with all relevant stakeholders to ensure a just transition that protects and creates good, green jobs and seizes the economic benefits that our journey presents.”
Top twenty lobbyists
The Ferret also analysed the individual organisations lobbying Scottish Government ministers and special advisors. Here are the top twenty since March 2018, when the lobbying register came into force.
This investigation is part of our Who Runs Scotland series. We will be shedding a light on ownership and power in Scotland’s economy, environment and politics.
Help us hold power to account, for as little as £3/month.
Photo Credit: nielubieklonu / iStock