Labour conference

Starmer sidesteps energy row in ‘new Britain’ pledge

Sir Keir Starmer addressing the Labour conference in Glasgow (pic: Terry Murden)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer today told his party’s Scottish conference that he would invest in innovation and jobs in Britain’s new industries but sidestepped the row over his u-turn on energy commitments.

Sir Keir spoke about carbon capture and storage as well as the need for energy security, but he did not respond directly to accusations of betraying the north east and the oil and gas sector.

More than 800 industry leaders and trade groups, including Sir Ian Wood, Martin Gilbert and the Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, last week signed a letter protesting at Sir Keir’s plan for a higher windfall levy and to oppose new exploration. Offshore Energies UK has called for urgent talks with the Labour leadership.

Labour leaders were portrayed as ‘The Traitors’ from the popular TV show, as the new plan reverses commitments made to industry leaders in the north east.

In the closing address to the conference in Glasgow, Sir Keir focused on telling delegates that, with his government in Downing Street, Scotland can be the “beating heart of a new Britain” .

Buoyed by victories in the Kingswood and Wellingborough by-elections, and success in last year’s Rutherglen and West Hamilton seat, he spoke about serving the people and bringing the country together.

“With a new sense of service and respect in our politics, with a plan for Britain grounded in the interests of working people, we can unite our country,” he said.

“We can reach beyond our communities and nations for that common good. We can turn the page on division and decline, strive for national renewal and build a new Britain out of the solidarity of working people, with Scotland as its beating heart.”

Sir Keir Starmer told delegates that Scotland can be Britain’s ‘beating heart’ (pic: Terry Murden)

Sir Keir pledged that a Labour government in Westminster will work hand in glove with a Scottish Labour Party in Holyrood.

“We know that we will have to fight for every vote. The right to say we are the change Scotland needs, must be earned, door to door, conversation to conversation, community by community, with our ears every bit as open as our mouths.

“But if people want to know what I would say to those voters who left us, I would say this: Scotland’s influence in Britain will be strongest when you have a Scottish Labour Party working with a Labour Government.”

In his few references to energy policy he pledged to provide “Scottish community energy projects”, criticised “squandered” oil and gas resources, and spoke of building the industries of the future, such as carbon capture.

“When I walk around Scottish communities, I see glimpses of a future Scotland. I see it in the hydrogen and carbon capture cluster in Grangemouth, the Whitelee Windfarm outside this city, the innovative brilliance of the video gamers of Dundee, the strength and resilience of Scottish rural communities, the restless creative spirit of its cities, the allure of the Highlands, the beauty of the Islands,” he said.

“And most of all, from the yards of Fife to the rigs of Aberdeen and the hospitals that even now in terrible circumstances, do their best for the people of Scotland, I see the determination and pride of working people.

“I see an ambition for Scotland – their ambition for Scotland – that we can match in Westminster and empower in Holyrood, to build a new Scotland.

Anas-Sarwar-and-Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer with Scottish leader Anas Sarwar unveiling the energy plan last year (pic: Terry Murden)

“Because Britain once again serves its working people. That is the difference we can deliver, together. That is the Scotland we can build, together.”

Recalling a visit to Aberdeen he said he had met the workers who maintain the 100-mile long pipelines. 

“I’ve said before – and I say again – that work will continue for decades to come.  But they also told me about the legacy they can build for Scotland’s future. The pride they have in a new opportunity. Converting this infrastructure into a thriving Carbon Capture and Storage industry.

“Literally putting the carbon back in the ground it came from. And giving their community a future – not just for the short-term – but for decades. 

Conference, this is what our investment can do. This is a race Scotland can win. If that’s not national renewal, I don’t know what is.”

On Friday, Shadow Energy Secretary Ed Miliband told a fringe meeting of invited business leaders that the party’s Green Prosperity Fund would help create 50,000 clean energy jobs.

Sharing a platform with Scottish Labour’s Net Zero spokeswoman Sarah Boyack, he repeated the pledge to establish a state-owned GB Energy company in Scotland backed by £8.3bn to invest in clean energy projects.

Ed Miliband (DB Media Services)
Ed Miliband: investing in Scotland (pic: Terry Murden)

Mr Miliband said: “GB Energy will make Scotland the energy capital of the UK and the UK the energy capital of Europe. That means good jobs, lower bills, energy security and climate action for the people of Scotland.

“Seven years ago the SNP promised a publicly owned energy company for Scotland. They have failed to deliver. If the people of Scotland help elect a Labour government, we will deliver GB Energy here in Scotland. 

“A Labour government will invest across Scotland from floating offshore wind to tidal energy to carbon capture and we will support community energy across every local area in Scotland. ” 

Ms Boyack added: “Scotland’s enormous potential has been held back by the Tories and the SNP with energy being imported and jobs exported at the same time. With Labour, this will end.

“Labour’s Green Prosperity Plan is nothing short of a transformation that will deliver a publicly owned energy company here in Scotland, deliver 50,000 jobs and slash people’s bills.

“Labour will unlock the potential that Scotland has to put our country in the vanguard of the global transition to green energy.”

See also

Oil and gas leaders hold talks on Labour plans

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