The headline debate at First Minister’s Questions today was the tiresome discussion over whether an independent Scotland would be a debt-ridden new Ireland or an oil-soaked new Norway.

I can’t imagine anyone outside the Chamber held avid interest in the discussion. Indeed, I daresay many INSIDE the Chamber tuned out and started thinking about their tea.

However, a new indirect dimension to the debate, and one worthy of significant debate, is that put forward by the Scottish Greens as Patrick Harvie is pressing the First Minister to support European plans for a moratorium on deepwater drilling, following the recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Is the Green Party attempting to leverage a unique tragedy in order to push through its economy-sapping agenda or is there a safety-first, environmentally-crucial opportunity here to usher in the beginning of the end for dirty oil?

Presumably we can only ease ourselves off oil once a sustainable, reliable renewables industry is up and running. We are surely still behind the curve on that score, though sprinting ever closer, leading the world infact, towards the ultimate goal of wind and wave powering our nation. Consequently, I would expect drilling to continue until we can leave the remaining, no longer necessary, oil safely underground.

Furthermore, the BP disaster notwithstanding, there is no reason to expect a similar problem in the North Sea given the lack of evidence that oil companies are not complying with the very strict safety regulations that are in place across Europe.

However, Patrick Harvie’s argument may well be that drilling for oil is taking place to cover our energy needs after the point at which Scotland can look forward to being fully reliant on renewable power. At that point my argument falls down and a potential objection that jobs need to be safeguarded would make me sound as silly as those who say we need billion-pound nuclear weapons in order to keep a number of people in the West of Scotland employed. After all, the best Carbon Capture System is not drilling for oil in the first place, even if it would make Texas-of-the-North Aberdeen an economically chilly place to be.

And what of the SNP’s aim for Scotland to be powered entirely by renewable energy by 2025? Does this not contradict the claims that Scotland can be the new Norway, as Stephen has pointed out? Well, yes and no I would suggest. There’s no reason why Scotland can’t power itself with Renewables and sell its oil abroad, though I accept that that is a dubious approach to fighting Climate Change.

So I fear the Greens are opportunistically playing up the possibility of another disaster on the scale of the Gulf of Mexico but at the same time making perfectly valid points about how much oil Scotland really needs to pull out of its seabed. This is not to forget that there is no way one can play up too far the environmental risks that are at stake.

It’s Scotland’s Oil. Yes, it is, but at what point do we decide to just leave our oil safely underground?

UPDATE – Caledonian Mercury has a good piece on the matter and the full exchange between Patrick Harvie and Alex Salmond