Humza Yousaf likens Labour to Margaret Thatcher over oil and gas plans

Humza Yousaf has accused Labour of behaving like Margaret Thatcher by throwing oil and gas workers “on the scrapheap”, as he announced the Scottish National party would not back proposals for extending the fossil fuel windfall tax.

In a campaign speech delivered in Aberdeen, the UK’s oil capital, Scotland’s first minister accused Labour of risking 100,000 jobs after Keir Starmer promised a “proper” windfall tax on oil and gas firms this month when he scaled back his party’s £28bn green investment pledge.

Yousaf, who later told journalists he favoured maintaining the energy profits levy at the current 75% level, said in his speech: “Don’t get me wrong, we support a windfall tax but Labour’s plans to increase this to pay for nuclear energy power plants in England is plain wrong and will cost tens of thousands of jobs.

“There is no justice in a transition that throws north-east workers on the scrapheap. The SNP will not let the north-east go the way that coal and mining towns went under Thatcher – that is exactly what Labour is threatening to do.”

If elected, Labour intends to raise the levy from 75% to 78% and extend it to 2029 to help pay for its green spending plans.

But Yousaf said the plans “to raid the north-east energy industry” meant that anger in the sector had “reached new levels”.

Meanwhile, a body representing the offshore oil and gas industry, Offshore Energy UK, announced it would hold “emergency summits” this week in Aberdeen and London to discuss the proposals, which it described as “deeply concerning”.

Yousaf’s attempts to appeal to the oil industry, which has been increasingly sceptical of the Scottish government’s plans for transition to net zero, its opposition to further exploration and its partnership with the Scottish Greens, were dismissed by opposition leaders as “breathtaking hypocrisy”.

Later on Monday, the Scottish Greens’ climate and energy spokesperson, Mark Ruskell, described the SNP leader’s comments as “a little alarmist”. Interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland, Ruskell said he did agree that “where a windfall tax is levied we need to spend it on a transition in Scotland for oil and gas workers” rather than “propping up the development of new nuclear power stations in England”.

Yousaf’s intervention came a day after Starmer’s speech to the Scottish Labour conference in Glasgow, where the Labour leader promised work in the sector would continue “for decades to come” in an attempt to defuse the growing backlash from the industry.

A joint letter published last week from more than 800 oil, engineering and business executives suggested the levy could cost up to 100,000 North Sea jobs and likened the potential impact of the windfall tax to the forced closure of coalmines by Thatcher’s government in the 1980s.

Earlier at the conference, the Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, defended the proposals, arguing it was essential to Labour’s strategy to invest in the transition to net zero, boost Britain’s ailing industrial and energy infrastructure and fund a “British jobs bonus” to create green jobs.

The shadow Scottish secretary, Ian Murray, described Yousaf’s position as “completely incoherent and out of touch”.

“It beggars belief that Humza Yousaf thinks that a person earning more than £28,500 deserves to pay more tax but energy giants earning billions in profits from soaring bills should pay less,” he said.

The Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, accused Yousaf of “masquerading as a friend of Scotland’s oil and gas industry”, saying: “The SNP have a longstanding ‘presumption against’ policy on all new oil and gas licences, they oppose Rosebank, [and] they were the first party to call for a windfall tax.”


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