Danielle Rowley, the Midlothian MP who was appointed to the newly created brief last month, said her party’s plan for a “Green Industrial Revolution” would bring jobs to economically depressed parts of the country that voted to leave the EU and help return Leave voters to Labour.
Rowley highlighted the Scottish Government’s decision to extend an existing licence to frack for gas near Falkirk for a year despite announcing an “effective ban” on fracking in Scotland two years ago.
That moratorium was shown to have no legal weight after it was challenged at the Court of Session by Ineos.
The year-long extension, the second one granted by Scottish ministers, gives Ineos hope of fracking on the site pending the outcome of a policy review which the government says it is “moving at pace towards finalising”.
“It’s quite typical of the SNP,” Rowley said. “Renewing a licence this week on fracking shows where the practicalities of their approach are. Will we see bold action from them?”
The Labour MP added: “Fracking is something that we’ve campaigned on for a long time – I remember being out in Musselburgh with Kez Dugdale with T-shirts that said ‘Frack off’ quite a few years ago now.
“We can’t be promoting new fossil fuel industries, and fracking has so many negatives about it, including being dangerous to nearby communities.
“Something that I’ll be really pushing in my new role is a ban on fracking, and I’ll be lobbying the UK government and the Scottish Government on that.”
In a letter to politicians and campaign groups informing them of the extension, energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “It would have been a dereliction of our responsibility as a competent licensing authority not to consider the request for an extension, taking into account all relevant factors.
“Allow me to reassure you that we are moving at pace towards finalising our policy position on this important issue.”
Wheelhouse added that the “preferred policy position” of the Scottish Government was “not supporting the development of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland”.
Rowley, who spoke yesterday alongside Labour’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard at an event in Motherwell to promote the party’s green economy plan, said her role would involve meeting with climate justice campaigners and working with fellow shadow cabinet members to ensure all of Labour’s policies were geared towards the climate emergency.
She said initiatives like Labour’s pledge to make bus travel free for the under-25s were a key part of preventing catastrophic climate change.
Asked about a recent YouGov poll that found support for Labour at its joint-worst level in history, at just 18 per cent, Rowley said: “When I was elected all the polls said I had no chance… A lot of the instability in the polls is down to the Brexit question, and what happens there.
“But my colleagues in areas of England that vote Leave have been saying that a lot of the time, people voted Leave because they had lost their jobs and industries. These communities are struggling and have not been invested in.
“Talking about this policy of a green industrial revolution that we would be investing in and looking at what green jobs could be created. That will build people’s trust, and that’s what they’ve been missing.”