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.
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.