Labour leader Keir Starmer wants to set a date for the end of North Sea oil and gas – but admitted he still has to convince the public to “buy in” to the plan.
The party leader, in Scotland for a three-day visit, described his ambition for a “hard-edged” end to fossil fuel reliance as part of wider plans to transform the economy and combat climate change.
Mr Starmer insisted there would have to be a strategy in place to replace jobs, and he outlined plans to spend billions on an alternative economic future.
But in an early sign of intent, he also opposed proposals to push ahead with extraction in the Cambo field off Shetland.
‘We’ve got to have a hard-edged timetable’
Mr Starmer said: “I think we’ve got to try and agree on a timetable for it.
“It’s got to be subject to consensus and agreement and we have got to bring communities with us on this. Otherwise, there’ll be a disconnect between the obligations that we’ve got to fulfil in order to deal with the climate crisis and the communities that are going to be most deeply affected.”
Asked to put a timescale on the future of the key oil and has industry, he added: “We’ll have to sit down and agree it but we’ve got to have a hard-edged timetable.”
Describing alternatives, he said the amount of wind energy needs to double and “double again” as part of a major strategy on a tight timescale.
Part of that plan is a strategic timetable for a “green deal”.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics cited by Labour show a loss of 33,800 “direct” jobs and a further 41,400 jobs in the supply chain for low-carbon and renewable sectors between 2014 and 2019.
The Labour leader also criticised the Scottish Government’s record on green jobs, claiming the SNP “broke its pledge to create 130,000 green jobs by 2020”.
In 2010, the Scottish Government predicted that jobs in the low-carbon sector would reach 130,000 by 2020 according to a now-archived official web page, but the latest official figures show 21,400 direct green jobs in Scotland, compared to 23,200 in 2014.
Labour has called for £30bn in planned investment to be brought forward to support up to 400,000 jobs in manufacturing and low-carbon industries.
Mr Starmer was with Scottish Labour Anas Sarwar in Glasgow, where he was questioned by media on his economic plan.
Mr Sarwar said there has to be “buy in” from communities and workers across the region or the ambition will be lost.
‘A just transition’
He said: “The north-east has been decimated by the reduction in the hospitality and tourism industry. It’s got huge challenges around oil and gas. And we hear a lot about the just transition, we want to deliver a just transition.
“A just transition is only truly just if you’re not decimating entire communities in the process, and not losing 1000s, if not 10s, of 1000s of jobs in the process.
“And this goes back to the point Keir was making around a strategic approach from the UK Government and the Scottish Government.
“If ware going to deliver a just transition, and we are going to make sure people don’t fall into unemployment, and we don’t decimate workers jobs in the north-east, we’ve got to do the investment here and now in terms of those new industries of the future so people can see the transition we’re going to make.”
He said former first minister Alex Salmond presided over a “lost decade” for renewables which is now backing up and putting the fight against climate change in jeopardy.
Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross said: “This confirms that Labour have abandoned Aberdeen and the north-east.”
He added: “They’ve no longer got any MSPs from Aberdeen and they’ve kicked out councillors from the city for working with unionists.
“People across the north-east will be appalled to hear that Keir Starmer is happy to throw away their livelihoods by agreeing a hard edged timetable to shut down the North Sea sector.
“Labour’s plans would risk the 100,000 jobs that depend on our vital oil and gas industry. This position is potentially even more extreme than an SNP-Green coalition would hold.
“It’s beyond reckless, especially when jobs and Scotland’s economic recovery from Covid must be our top priority.”
‘Starmer is out of touch’
An SNP spokesman said: “Keir Starmer is renowned for fence sitting so using words like ‘hard edge’ without providing any explanation of what he means is just the latest insulting example that fools no one.
“He should also know better than making a token trip north of the border to preach about climate change in Scotland – the country with the most ambitious targets in the world led by an SNP Government committed to a just transition to net zero that is fair and leaves no-one behind.
“If the Labour leader continues to sit in the middle of the road his party will continue to be run over by Boris Johnson’s chaotic and untrustworthy Tory party. Starmer is out of touch and his party is destined to remain out of power.”