Swinney urged by Labour to state position on oil and gas

Scottish Labour has urged First Minister John Swinney to say if he backs a presumption against oil and gas.

The policy – which was included in the Scottish Government’s draft energy strategy – would see Edinburgh oppose new exploration in the North Sea unless strict tests are met.

But the First Minister has so far not committed to keeping the policy when the final document is published.

Jackie Baillie
Scottish Labour’s deputy leader pushed for the First Minister to commit to a position (Jane Barlow/PA)

Speaking to journalists during a visit on Tuesday, the First Minister said: “We’ve got to make the transition to net zero, but what I want to ensure is that we manage that transition in a way that supports the oil and gas sector and is compatible with our long-term vision.

“That’s the balance that needs to be struck and I want to avoid economic disruption.”

The First Minister also told journalists the energy strategy was being considered and the Government’s position would be reflected in the document.

But earlier in the day, SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn intimated that the presumption could be shelved.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: “The energy strategy, as it stands, is not published in its final form. I’m very much looking forward to it being published in its final form.

“I think we all need to recognise, irrespective of where you are, the importance of the oil and gas sector to Scotland’s economy and the fact that those 100,000 individuals that we are talking about are absolutely crucial in our journey to net zero.”

On Wednesday, Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie, however, pushed the First Minister to express a view.

“When it comes to oil and gas, the SNP is saying one thing to the North East and another to the rest of Scotland,” she said.

“With so many different positions now being spouted by SNP politicians north and south, it’s no wonder John Swinney has been left dazed and confused by the spin.

Oil rigs
The First Minister told journalists the energy strategy was being considered (PA)

“This issue is too important to be used as an internal battering ram in the SNP.

“We need to know now whether John Swinney backs the current position of the government he leads or whether he has been overruled by Westminster politician and plotter Stephen Flynn.

“While the SNP position is all hot air, Scottish Labour is clear that oil and gas will remain vital for decades to come while Labour deliver the jobs and investment we need to transition to clean energy.”

Labour, however, have had trouble in the north-east of Scotland over their stance on oil and gas, with leader Sir Keir Starmer last year saying he would end new exploration.

Stephen Flynn MP said on Wednesday evening: “It’s a good try but the Labour Party in Scotland aren’t going to be able to convince anyone that they aren’t about to destroy 100,000 livelihoods and in turn, Scotland’s economic potential.

“They’ve been told by industry that their plans will deter up to £30 billion of investment in Scotland yet rather than stand up to Keir Starmer they try to deflect to the SNP, it’s a sign of things to come and the public will be wise to it.

“In contrast, a vote for the SNP on 4th July is a vote to protect Scottish jobs and put Scotland’s interests first. The SNP will always stand up for energy jobs and investment in Scotland.

“Scotland is an energy rich country. While Keir Starmer wants to take Scotland’s energy wealth and spend it on nuclear power stations in England – the SNP is clear every penny should be reinvested in Scotland to reduce energy bills, create Scottish jobs and secure our green energy future.

“On 4th July, vote SNP for a future made in Scotland, for Scotland.”