Oil and gas

Our energy strategy shows that oil and gas are vital to Scotland, accounting for around 90% of the country’s total primary energy in 2015. We see the sector a key component of our economy and remains integral to a sustainable, secure and inclusive energy transition. As part of the September 2019 Programme for Government the Scottish Government confirmed that support for oil and gas exploration and production in the North Sea will now be conditional on the oil and gas sector’s actions to help ensure a sustainable energy transition.


We are supporting the oil and gas sector by:

We also:


The UK Government is responsible for the fiscal regime and regulation of the oil and gas industry.

It is also responsible for the health and safety of the offshore oil and gas industry operating on the UK Continental Shelf, which is overseen by independent regulator the Health and Safety Executive

We are responsible for the skills and training policy for Scotland's oil and gas industry.

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), acts as the offshore oil and gas sector's independent regulator. Its role is to regulate, influence and promote the offshore oil and gas industry, in order to maximise the economic recovery of the UK's oil and gas resources. The NSTA regulates the licensing of exploration and development of the UK's offshore oil and gas resources, gas storage and unloading activities.

The Petroleum Act 1998 confers all rights to the UK's petroleum resources to the Crown, but the NSTA can grant licences that confer exclusive rights to search and bore for and get petroleum, over a limited offshore area for a limited time. Find further licensing and consents information on the NSTA website.

Scotland Act 2016: onshore oil and gas licensing

Onshore oil and gas licensing powers were devolved on 9 February 2018. Commencement of sections 47 to 49 of the Scotland Act 2016 transferred powers to:

  • legislate for the granting and regulation of onshore licences
  • determine the terms and conditions of licences
  • regulate the licensing process, including administration of existing onshore licences

The consideration payable for such licences remains a reserved matter. The regulation, including setting, of the consideration payable for a licence is therefore reserved. In addition, the UK Government has powers to revoke a licence on the basis of failure to make payments due under the licence.

The NSTA is responsible for administering these issues on behalf of the UK Government.

A memorandum of understanding has been signed with the UK Government and the NSTA setting out arrangements in respect of the reserved matters.

The terms of the onshore oil and gas licences currently held in Scotland are set out in legislation. There have been a number of changes made to the terms over the past 10 years. Since devolution of onshore licensing powers to Scottish Ministers on 9 February 2018, changes to the licences have been made by means of:

Regulation 7 and Schedule 3 of the Scotland Act 2016 and Onshore Petroleum (Consequential, Transitional and Saving Provisions and Model Clauses) Regulations 2018, as amended by the Scotland Act 2016, Wales Act 2017 and Onshore Petroleum (Consequential, Transitional and Saving Provisions and Model Clauses) Regulations 2018.

Interactive maps

An interactive map has been developed to provide access to information about the licences currently held in Scotland.

The map and all available metadata is available through the Marine Scotland website.

Datasets in respect of onshore oil and gas exploration and appraisal wells drilled under licences previously held in Scotland, are available on the Onshore UK Hydrocarbon Well Data layer on the British Geological Survey’s Onshore Geoindex interactive map .

Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is a global initiative that promotes open and accountable management of oil, gas and mineral resources.  EITI implementation in the UK is overseen by the UK EITI Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG), which is made up of representatives from industry, civil society and government (including the Scottish Government). The minutes of the MSG meetings and other publications related to the work of the MSG are available on the UK EITI website.

Benefits to the economy

The oil and gas sector is vital to both the UK and Scottish economies. Oil and gas extraction alone was worth an estimated £8.8 billion in GVA to Scotland’s economy in 2019, representing 5% of total Scottish GDP.

More than 44 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) have been extracted from the UK Continental Shelf since the 1970s, and industry regulator the Oil and Gas Authority estimates that up to 20 billion boe can still be recovered.

The oil and gas sector is also a major source of tax revenues and has provided over £330 billion in revenues (2019 prices) to the UK Government from production taxation alone. 

The sector is also a major employer, estimated to support around 100,000 jobs in Scotland in 2018 through direct, indirect and induced impacts.

Bills and legislation

The Scotland Act 2016 devolved onshore oil and gas licensing powers to Scotland.

All other oil and gas legislation is reserved to the UK Government.


Oil and gas (general enquiries)

Email: oilandgas@gov.scot

Oil and gas team
4th floor
Atlantic Quay
150 Broomielaw
G2 8LU

Onshore oil and gas licensing

Email: johann.macdougall@gov.scot

Onshore and Subsurface Systems Policy Unit
4th floor
Atlantic Quay
150 Broomielaw
G2 8LU

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