SNP leadership contender Humza Yousaf has vowed to turn the north-east into a renewable energy superpower – if he leads Scotland to independence.

He said thousands of jobs would be created under his plans to invest in state-owned onshore wind, solar and hydro projects.

And he wants the Holyrood government to secure longer-term revenues from future offshore wind licensing rounds.

But an Aberdeen business chief says any new SNP leader must end its opposition to new North Sea oil and gas exploration, branding the policy “economic self-sabotage”.

The health secretary, who is battling Kate Forbes and Ash Regan to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as first minister, took his campaign to the north-east last Friday.

He told the Press & Journal: “It is time for Scotland to own our green future and my plans will use the powers we have available to cement Aberdeen as a renewable energy capital of the world.”

Energy potential

Mr Yousaf insisted Scottish independence offered the only way to “truly unleash our energy potential”.

The MSP said: “With independence, we can go so much further – we can turn the north-east from a region of enormous renewable potential to a genuine renewable superpower.”

Energy policy became an early battleground in the fight to become first minister.

Ms Sturgeon’s government has been under fire for its recent weakening of support for North Sea oil and gas, and failure to properly plan for a transition to cleaner industries.

Mr Yousaf is considered the candidate most likely to continue with her stance on a range of key issues.

Ryan Crighton, policy director at Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said the ambition set out by Mr Yousaf’ on his visit was welcome.

No response

But he complained that the health secretary was the only candidate not to respond to the group’s suggestions for meaningful action.

“That action must start with the removal of the Scottish Government’s newly-adopted position supporting a presumption against oil and gas exploration – an act of economic self-sabotage which will only serve to drive jobs and investment overseas,” added Mr Crighton.

“Until this presumption is removed, a promise to protect every job is impossible to deliver.

“We set this position out in a letter to all three candidates almost four weeks ago. Mr Yousaf is the only one who hasn’t responded.”

Jenny Stanning, external relations director at trade body Offshore Energies UK, said: “We’re pleased Humza Yousaf recognised the need to rapidly scale up renewable electricity, strengthen Scotland’s energy security, and ensure we support our brilliant-skilled workforce to reap the benefits of an expanding and competitive offshore energy sector.

“As we build that future there is no simple choice between oil and gas or renewables. The reality is that to keep the lights on and grow our economy, we need both. “By the mid-2030s, oil and gas will still provide for 50% of our energy needs.

Continuing role

"This is why the Scottish Government’s final energy strategy must acknowledge the continuing role of oil and gas in Scotland’s economy and encourage investment in the home-grown production needed to avoid costlier, less secure, and higher-carbon imports.

"This will support the infrastructure we need to make cleaner, more-affordable energy in Scotland in a way that retains the economic contribution, jobs and expertise here.”

But Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr has warned that the SNP leadership candidates are “trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes” by feeding “false promises” to the people of the north-east.

“For far too long, the SNP government has used Aberdeen and its energy sector as a cash cow for the central belt,” he said.

North-east frustrations with the UK and Scottish governments intensified after the region lost out in its bid to host one of Scotland’s two green freeports, which were instead awarded to the Cromarty Firth and the Firth of Forth.

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