Humza Yousaf attacks Labour’s ‘aggressive’ plan to ‘raid’ North Sea oil and gas industry

The First Minister said Sir Keir Starmer’s party would ‘squeeze the life out of the sector overnight’

Humza Yousaf has accused Labour of threatening to let the north-east go the way “our coal and mining towns went under Thatcher” as he launched an attack on the party’s “aggressive” plans to extend the windfall tax.

The First Minister said Sir Keir Starmer’s proposals to “raid” the oil and gas industry risked some 100,000 jobs and would “squeeze the life out of the sector overnight”.

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He said neither Labour nor the Conservatives had a credible position on the North Sea, and insisted the SNP would not “abandon the industry”, but work with it to move “at pace” towards net zero.

Humza Yousaf delivers a speech on the future of Scotland's energy sector in Aberdeen. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA WireHumza Yousaf delivers a speech on the future of Scotland's energy sector in Aberdeen. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Humza Yousaf delivers a speech on the future of Scotland's energy sector in Aberdeen. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

It came as Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), the industry trade body, said it was holding emergency summits in Aberdeen and London this week amid outcry over Labour’s proposals.

Sir Keir previously announced he wanted to raise the windfall tax on fossil fuel firms from 75 per cent of excess profits to 78 per cent while also extending it to 2029. However, he told the Scottish Labour conference in Glasgow over the weekend that work in the North Sea would continue “for decades to come” in an attempt to calm criticism from the industry.

Labour called Mr Yousaf’s latest comments “completely incoherent and out of touch”.

Meanwhile, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross accused the First Minister of “displaying breath-taking hypocrisy masquerading as a friend of Scotland’s oil and gas industry when he and the SNP have abandoned it at every opportunity”.

Speaking in Aberdeen on Monday, Mr Yousaf said there was real anger over Labour’s bid to “raid the north-east energy industry” while “dumping their plans to help fund a just transition”.

He accused Sir Keir of “prevarication and then capitulation” over his party’s pledge to spend £28 billion a year on its green investment plans. This pledge was ditched earlier this month.

The First Minister argued a vote for the SNP was a vote to control Scotland’s energy future.

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He said: “Our oil and gas industry has been good for Scotland. It supports hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs, directly and through the supply chain. We will not abandon the industry, far from it. We are willing partners who want to work with the industry to move, at pace, in the just transition to net zero.”

Mr Yousaf said there was “no justice in a transition that throws workers of the north-east on the scrapheap”, adding: “The SNP will not let the north-east go the way our coal and mining towns went under Thatcher, and that is what Labour is threatening to do.

"You cannot deliver a just transition from oil and gas – for the people and businesses that rely on it – if you squeeze the life out of the sector overnight. That is why the SNP will oppose Labour’s aggressive tax plans for the sector."

He continued: “Now, don’t get me wrong. We support a windfall tax in order to protect people during a cost-of-living crisis. But Labour’s plans to increase this to pay for new nuclear power plants in England is plain wrong and will cost tens of thousands, if not more, jobs in the north-east.”

The First Minister said the Tories were “no better” and wanted to “bury their heads in the sand”. And he accused Sir Keir of “doubling down on austerity” with his plans, should Labour win the coming general election.

He said: “Labour’s fiscal rules are nothing more than a defence against Tory attacks. But in effect they bind Labour to Tory austerity. Westminster is so broken, so skewed to the right, that even Labour know they can’t win unless they promise to be just as right wing as the Conservatives.

“The wolf hasn’t even bothered to put on the sheep’s clothing. It’s just a stuck on a red rosette.”

Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said: “Humza Yousaf’s latest position on Labour’s plans is completely incoherent and out of touch. Last year energy giants recorded profits of £33bn while a third of households in Scotland were living in fuel poverty. But after a dizzying series of U-turns, it seems the SNP has decided to side with the energy giants.

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“It beggars belief that Humza Yousaf thinks that a person earning more than £28,500 deserves to pay more tax, but energy giants earning billions in profits from soaring bills should pay less.

“Labour’s plans will tackle the cost-of-living crisis and drive down bills for good by delivering cheaper, cleaner energy and retrofitting homes, as well as establishing a publicly-owned GB Energy company, creating 50,000 new clean power jobs in Scotland, and delivering clean energy by 2030.

“The oil and gas sector will continue to play a key role in our energy system for decades to come, and Labour’s plans will ensure the jobs and opportunities of the future come to the north-east.”

Mr Ross said: “The SNP have a long-standing ‘presumption against’ policy on all new oil and gas licences. They oppose Rosebank, they were the first party to call for a windfall tax and it’s only a few months since Humza Yousaf was proclaiming the end of the industry in a speech in New York.

“Labour’s plans for oil and gas would be catastrophic for north-east communities, the wider Scottish economy and our energy security – but the SNP are equally committed to turning off the taps in the North Sea straight away.

“Humza Yousaf must think people in the north-east are buttoned up the back if they’re to believe the SNP is a friend of the oil and gas industry, when his partnership with the extremist Greens is predicated on shutting it down.

“The reality – as on so many other issues – is that you can barely put a cigarette paper between Labour and the SNP on this. Their position is economically and environmentally illiterate because it would decimate jobs and communities while increasing our reliance on imported fossil fuels with a bigger carbon footprint.”

The Scottish Greens – partners with the SNP in government – said future windfall taxes on Scotland’s oil and gas industry must be used to fund renewables jobs and careers and speed up the shift away from fossil fuels.

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Scottish Greens climate and energy spokesperson Mark Ruskell said: “The workers and communities that have driven the oil and gas sectors have a particularly crucial role, and must be at the heart of that transition.

“But it doesn’t mean, as Labour suggests, exploiting Scotland’s resources to fund vanity nuclear projects in England, and it certainly shouldn’t mean more exploration licences or ditching promises to invest in climate solutions.

“It must mean investing that profit into accelerating the creation of new jobs and renewable energy supply chains, giving oil and gas workers the confidence to train for the well-paid skilled jobs of the future.”



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