North Sea oil: Scottish Labour says it will not impose 'cliff-edge' end to North Sea oil and gas
The statement from Scottish Labour was issued as party leader Anas Sarwar faced renewed pressure to clarify his own position, amid claims a widespread ban under Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership would be “hugely damaging”.
Mr Sarwar had been challenged in writing by the Scottish Conservatives to publicly state whether or not he agreed with the UK Labour Party’s stance on North Sea oil and gas.
Over the weekend it was revealed the UK party was planning to make a policy announcement committing to blocking any new licences for developing oil and gas fields if Labour wins the next general election.
A spokeswoman for Scottish Labour told The Scotsman: “The skills and expertise of Scotland’s energy workforce will be key to a successful energy transition.
“We are clear that meeting our climate targets will go hand in hand with protecting and creating jobs in our energy sector.
“Labour will not impose a cliff-edge end to oil and gas production while we transform the UK into a clean energy superpower - existing licences will continue and using existing wells sensibly is baked into our plans.”
They added Labour is “committed to a just transition” and wants to lower energy bills “for good”.
Over the weekend a party source said UK Labour was against new licences for oil and gas as they do “nothing to cut bills, undermine our energy scrutiny and would drive a coach and horse through our climate targets”.
They added this would not stop drilling in pre-approved projects, with the exception of Rosebank and Cambo oilfields off the coast of Shetland, which Labour has previously said it would block.
A statement from the party over the weekend echoed the comments later made by Scottish Labour committing to transform the UK into a “clean energy superpower”.
Speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday show, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the party would outline how it would invest in green jobs and bring energy bills down in the coming weeks.
He said: “We’ll be outlining that in a significant mission in the coming weeks, and we’ll be announcing more details then. We know we’ve got to move to more renewable sources of energy.
“It’s important for our climate change commitments, but it's also the way in which we can bring energy bills down for consumers.
“This isn’t about shutting down what’s going on now. We will manage those sustainably.”
Sir Keir Starmer is expected to explain more when he visits Scotland next month.
The statement from Labour has been criticised by many across the political spectrum.
The Scottish Conservatives had written to Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar asking him to publicly state whether or not he agreed with the UK Labour Party’s stance on North Sea oil and gas.
Liam Kerr, the Scottish Conservatives’ energy spokesman and an MSP for the North East region, said: “Labour’s approach to the North Sea has been nothing short of a gut punch to the industry and tens of thousands of Scots who work in it.
“As if the ideological stance from the SNP and Greens wasn’t bad enough, along comes Labour to further demonise the people who help keep the lights on.
“Keir Starmer’s plan would drop any notion of energy security and make us dependent on oil and gas from overseas.
“That would cause higher emissions and ramp up energy costs to consumers.”
Alex Salmond, former SNP first minister and now leader of the Alba Party, has also been critical of the announcement, accusing Keir Starmer of “sabotaging” Scotland’s resources.
Mr Salmond said the right thing to do would be to make sure any new development went hand-in-hand with a full carbon capture proposal, but said no UK Government would commit to this.
He added: “Unfortunately, the SNP-Green position is to speculate on the terms of putting Sir Keir Starmer, the North Sea job destroyer, into power.”
The Scottish Government said in its draft energy strategy, which was published in January 2023, there “should be a presumption against new exploration for oil and gas”.
However energy licences are reserved to Westminster and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has backed new oil and gas exploration.
The North Sea Transition Authority has recently held a licensing round for oil and gas exploration projects.
After attracting more than 100 bids two oilfields were given licences - Cambo, which Labour has previously said it is against, and Jackdaw which is off the coast of Aberdeen.
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