North Sea oil and gas industry not safe with Labour, Sunak to claim

Rishi Sunak speaks to journalists on the campaign bus - he will be in Edinburgh on Monday
Rishi Sunak speaks to journalists on the campaign bus - he will be in Edinburgh on Monday - Leon Neal/Getty

Rishi Sunak will today accuse Labour of “virtue signalling to eco zealots” instead of protecting North Sea oil and gas jobs.

The Prime Minister will visit Edinburgh on Monday to launch the Scottish Tory manifesto and will claim that Sir Keir Starmer would tax the vital UK energy sector “into oblivion” while attacking Labour’s “ideological” plans to ban new licences.

In contrast, he is to pledge that a Tory government would introduce new legislation to guarantee that there would be further annual oil and gas licensing rounds and promise to maintain tax breaks for investment by energy companies.

Mr Sunak will warn voters that the UK’s “North Sea industry isn’t safe with Labour” and pledge that a government he leads would “always stand full square behind Scotland’s North Sea oil and gas industry.”

“We are committed to new licences, more investment in infrastructure and skills, and energy security for our country,” Mr Sunak is expected to say. We will deliver a secure future for the North Sea industry and the workers it employs.

“Labour want to stop all new licences in the North Sea from day one of a Labour government. Keir Starmer and Ed Miliband want to tax the UK’s oil and gas sector and the 100,000 Scottish jobs it supports into oblivion.

“Labour don’t want to ban oil and gas, just British oil and gas. They would rather virtue signal to eco zealots than protect jobs here at home.”

The Gannet - an installation owned and operated by Shell UK in the North Sea
The Gannet - an installation owned and operated by Shell UK in the North Sea - Julian Walters/Adobe Stock

Labour’s manifesto states that the party would “not issue new licences to explore new fields”.

Sir Keir has also vowed to double down on a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, closing “loopholes” in it, increasing it by three points to 78 per cent, and extending it until 2029.

The industry has warned that Labour’s plan will deter investment and risks leading to the loss of up to 100,000 jobs, with the Tories warning the proposals would spell “disaster for Scotland”.

The SNP is also refusing to commit to supporting new drilling, with John Swinney rejecting calls to abandon Nicola Sturgeon’s “presumption” against further licences and branding Mr Sunak a “climate denier”.

Mr Sunak will launch the Scottish Tory manifesto alongside Douglas Ross, the outgoing Scottish Tory leader.

While opinion polls suggest the Conservatives are heading for a heavy defeat UK-wide, the party is still hopeful that it can hold on to the six Scottish seats it won in 2019. Three are in the north-east of Scotland in areas heavily dependent on the North Sea.

The Scottish Tory manifesto will also include proposals to push ahead with a new nuclear power station in Scotland, despite SNP opposition, increase financial support for Scottish farmers and press for permanent removal of tariffs on Scotch whisky from the US government.

Mr Ross admitted on Sunday that the constituency he is standing in, Aberdeenshire North and Moray East, was on a “knife edge”.

The SNP is hoping a row that saw Mr Ross replace incumbent David Duguid, who had been hospitalised due to a serious spinal condition, as the Tory candidate will help the nationalists claim the seat.

However, Mr Sunak will urge Scottish voters to “send the nationalists the strongest message possible that the people of Scotland want to move on from their independence obsession”.

He is set to attack the SNP’s record on tax, promising to cut levies on workers after the SNP increased them.

He will say: “It tells you everything you need to know that while the SNP are turning Scotland into the high tax capital of the UK, hiking taxes at every opportunity, this Conservative Government is cutting tax for workers here in Scotland and across the United Kingdom.

“We’ve already cut taxes by £900 for the average worker by reducing the National Insurance tax. And if you offer us your support in this election, we will cut this tax again.”

During a visit to a Scottish wind farm on Monday, Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, will claim Labour’s energy plans would “turbocharge” the Scottish economy.

The party has claimed its windfall tax will help pay for investment in green energy projects and pay for GB Energy, a publicly-owned energy company which will make targeted investments.

Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, said: “Under Labour, green and growth will go hand in hand as we work to bring the clean power jobs of the future here to Scotland.

“Labour will unlock Scotland’s potential as a clean energy superpower with a publicly owned GB Energy company based right here in Scotland.

“We can slash extortionate energy bills, create 69,000 new green jobs and drive forward growth – this is an opportunity for change that Scotland cannot afford to miss.”

Alison Thewliss, the SNP candidate for Glasgow North, said: “It’s good that Rishi Sunak and Douglas Ross will get time tomorrow to compare notes on which one has run the worst campaign.

“They are both on their last legs as leaders, their party is already finished in this campaign and the real choice for Scotland in this election is who is now best placed to put Scotland’s interests first.”

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