Only Tories can be ‘trusted’ on protecting North Sea jobs, says Sunak

Rishi Sunak will declare only the Tories can be “trusted” to protect vital jobs in the North Sea – claiming his Government’s support for the oil and gas sector will help “build a brighter, greener future”.

The Prime Minister will travel to the north east of Scotland on Friday, meeting leading figures from the energy sector, and from the wider supply chain which supports the industry.

He will seek to use the trip to contrast his party’s support for North Sea oil and gas with Labour and the SNP, both of which have a greater focus on moving towards renewable energy.

However, the North Sea oil and gas industry provides about 200,000 jobs across the UK, including more than 90,000 in Scotland.

The Prime Minister will use a visit to Scotland to stress his party’s support for the oil and gas sector (Andrew Millligan/PA)
The Prime Minister will use a visit to Scotland to stress his party’s support for the oil and gas sector (Andrew Millligan/PA)

Speaking ahead of his trip, Mr Sunak said: “Scotland has an abundance of ingenuity, talent and hard-working people, people who are at the core of our United Kingdom’s success.

“That is why my Government remains steadfast in its support of the 200,000 high quality UK jobs that depend on our North Sea oil, gas and energy sector – with nearly half of those jobs in Scotland alone.”

The Prime Minister insisted he would “always stand up for our country, our United Kingdom” as he vowed to back the oil and gas industry “so we can build a brighter, greener future for Scotland”.

Mr Sunak continued: “We have a plan to transition to net zero and my Government will always take the right long-term decisions to ensure that we do so in a pragmatic and proportionate way, that doesn’t burden hardworking Scottish families.

“Proving once again, only the Conservatives can be trusted to protect Scottish jobs and livelihoods.”

Labour’s shadow Scottish secretar, Ian Murray, however, claimed the Prime Minister was making a “desperate trip north to rally the fragments of the Scottish Tory party”.

Labour’s Ian Murray said the Prime Minister was making a ‘desperate trip north’ (Peter Byrne/PA)
Labour’s Ian Murray said the Prime Minister was making a ‘desperate trip north’ (Peter Byrne/PA)

Mr Murray added: “It is clear that the people of Scotland are ready to boot the Tories out of power for good.

“This chaotic and damaging Government offers the people of Scotland nothing but more economic turmoil, incompetence and dangerous political brinkmanship.”

He pledged Labour, if voted into government at the next general election, would deliver a “proper windfall tax” on energy firms along with 50,000 clean energy jobs in Scotland.

The SNP, meanwhile, demanded Mr Sunak use his visit to Scotland to rethink the 75% tax levied on bottles of whisky.

Richard Thomson, the SNP trade spokesperson at Westminster, said next week’s UK Budget must include a reduction of at least 5% “in the Tory whisky tax”, adding that “anything less will be a betrayal of the Scotch whisky industry”.

The SNP MP added: “Scotch Whisky is an iconic part of our culture and importantly plays a huge role in Scotland’s economy – generating over £6 billion in export sales every year.

“It beggars belief that the Tories have slapped an eye-watering 75% tax on bottles of Scotch whisky which support more than 40,000 jobs in Scotland.”

David Whitehouse, chief executive of Offshore Energies UK, said: “At the Scottish Conservative conference in Aberdeen OEUK will continue to make the case that we must unlock investment in the offshore energy sector.

“OEUK’s industry manifesto published earlier this week set out the case for a homegrown energy transition.

“That’s investment in oil and gas while we need it, and wind, hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage to grow the economy, protect jobs and ensure secure supplies of energy.

“OEUK’s message to all parties is clear – next week can and must be a budget for a homegrown energy transition.

“While we recognise the cost of living challenge facing many households, our industry has consistently argued that when windfall conditions fall away, so should windfall taxes.

“Energy businesses need stability and a clear signal that they can make a return on North Sea investment to stay here in the UK.

“We can help with all of this, but policymakers must make that choice – to unlock investment in a homegrown energy transition that leaves no-one behind.”