GB Energy: Keir Starmer says Labour can be trusted on renewable energy, despite U-turn on green fund

The UK Labour leader was in Leith to unveil plans for a publicly-funded energy company if they win the next general election

Sir Keir Starmer says the Labour Party can be trusted to deliver a green revolution in the UK, despite previously backtracking on billions of pounds of funding for renewables projects.

The Labour leader was in Leith on Monday to unveil his party’s plans for a publicly-owned energy company called GB Energy if they win the next election. Sir Keir said the firm would make the UK a superpower and a world leader in renewable energy.

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He was joined by Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband, and the party’s Scottish leader Anas Sarwar to make the announcement.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speak to members of the press. Image: Peter Summers/Getty Images.Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speak to members of the press. Image: Peter Summers/Getty Images.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speak to members of the press. Image: Peter Summers/Getty Images.

Sir Keir said the publicly-owned energy company would be based somewhere in Scotland, lower household energy bills by 2030, and create half a million “well paid” jobs, including 50,000 roles north of the border.

This comes after Labour backtracked on a previous proposal to create a £28 billion green prosperity plan if they got the keys to Number 10. The party said it would invest this amount in green projects annually until the year 2030, but only two years after announcing this policy position Ms Reeves scrapped it because of drastic changes to the economy.

Speaking at Nova Innovations in Leith, Sir Keir said the general public could still trust his party with energy despite this U-turn. He said: “We are doubling down, we are not backing off.

“The policy position was a matter of trust. We said the fiscal rules in place were set two years ago and inflation is now in a completely different place because the Tories have made such a mess and done so much damage to the economy.

“We will set out our plans to ramp up to that £28bn, but when I speak to people in the sector, they don’t say we are backing down or lacking ambition. They say this is a real challenge, but it is doable and we’re really going for it.

“There is no question of backing down.”

While Sir Keir made his speech in the capital, First Minister Humza Yousaf was in Glasgow to unveil the latest of the SNP’s independence prospectus papers.

Mr Yousaf said Labour had “squandered not tens, but hundreds of billions of pounds of oil and gas revenue” and only invested a fraction of this in Scotland.

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“I am not sure anybody will trust a Labour Party on the green economy just two weeks after they dump their £28bn green prosperity fund,” he said.

During his speech, Sir Keir said any delay to shifting away from a reliance on oil and gas would be a “historic mistake”, stressing his party offered a “new course through stormy waters”.

He said: “Let me say directly to those people in Scotland, nervous about the change this mission requires – I know the ghosts industrial change unearths. Deep down, we all know this has to happen eventually and that the only question is when.

“So in all candour, the reality is this – the moment for decisive action is now. If we wait until North Sea oil and gas runs out, the opportunities this change can bring for Scotland and your community will pass us by, and that would be a historic mistake.”

The Scotsman asked Sir Keir how long those working in the oil and gas industry could expect to do so for, and if people should stop considering careers in fossil fuels.

Labour didn’t directly answer these questions, but said they would protect jobs in the North Sea.

However, Sir Keir’s announcement has been criticised by the Scottish Conservatives, who say it shows the Labour Party is “economically and environmentally illiterate”.

Liam Kerr, the Conservatives’ energy spokesman and an MSP for the North East, said the Labour policy betrayed the region and could be “catastrophic”. He said: “That would cost tens of thousands of skilled jobs and destroy communities across the North East.

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“That’s madness when we know that renewable sources don’t yet cover our energy needs – because it would lead to costly foreign imports of fossil fuels, increasing our carbon footprint.

“Keir Starmer spoke of the need to remove [Russian president Vladimir] Putin’s foot from our throat, yet his plan would give Russia even more influence over UK and European energy markets.

“There’s nothing ‘just’ about abandoning skilled workers while we’re still reliant on oil and gas.”

Mr Kerr said his point was further proved when a hydrogen-powered bus put on by the Labour Party to take journalists to the event in Leith was replaced by a diesel bus, which then got lost en-route to the venue.

He said: “Labour were – embarrassingly – forced to accept this reality, when the hydrogen-powered vehicle they promised would bus journalists to Starmer’s speech never materialised, and a diesel one had to be used instead.”



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