Energy row

Yousaf accused of ‘hypocrisy’ on oil and gas plans

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf: we are at the forefront of a green energy revolution (pic: Terry Murden)

First Minister Humza Yousaf has been accused of “breathtaking hypocrisy’ after criticising Labour’s plans to hit the oil and gas sector with an increase in the windfall tax that the SNP was the first to demand.

Mr Yousaf told a gathering in Aberdeen that the SNP would defend and invest in Scotland’s energy resources, saying “the workers of the North East are being asked to pay the price because of Westminster’s economic and energy mismanagement.”
He said that for many in the North East and across Scotland “that is rightly a source of real anger” and reached new levels last week when Labour dropped its investment target for green energy.

Labour has proposed increasing the energy profits levy, or windfall tax, by three percentage points, to 78%, as part of a “proper” tax on oil and gas companies.

“The SNP will oppose Labour’s aggressive tax plans for the sector,” said Mr Yousaf, claiming that Labour wants to use the extra income “solely to plug the massive financial hole in plans to build new nuclear power plants in England.”

He added: “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.

“Once again the workers of the North East are being asked to pay the price because of Westminster’s economic and energy mismanagement.”

However, critics pointed out that that SNP was the first party to demand a windfall tax on the sector and was opposed to new exploration which the industry is demanding in order to finance the transition to clean energy.

Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said:  “Humza Yousaf’s latest position on Labour’s plans is completely incoherent and out of touch.”

Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: “Humza Yousaf is displaying breath-taking hypocrisy masquerading as a friend of Scotland’s oil and gas industry when he and the SNP have abandoned it at every opportunity.

“The SNP have a long-standing ‘presumption against’ policy on all new oil and gas licences, they oppose Rosebank, they were the first party to call for a windfall tax and it’s only a few months since Humza Yousaf was proclaiming the end of the industry in a speech in New York.”

Alan Bruce
Alan Bruce, formerly of Ithaca Energy, expressed his disappointment to the First Minister

Last October Mr Yousaf described approval of the Rosebank project as the “wrong decision” which prompted Alan Bruce, who was CEO of partner Ithaca Energy at the time, to write a letter to the First Minister saying he was “extremely disappointed” by Mr Yousaf’s remarks.

Referring to an earlier meeting with the First Minister, Mr Bruce wrote: “I enjoyed the open exchange of views and I thought we left with a common understanding from energy companies, supply chain, and investors that the position of the Scottish Government, and indeed your comments, have wide-reaching influence despite jurisdiction over oil and gas licensing and development sitting in Westminster.

“It was disappointing that no Scottish Minister gave any sign that the jobs likely to be supported in Scotland by this project were welcome.”

The Scottish Conservative leader also turned his fire on Labour whose leader Sir Keir Starmer failed to respond directly to the angry reaction to his new plans from industry leaders when he addressed delegates in Glasgow at the weekend.

Mr Ross said: “Labour’s plans for oil and gas would be catastrophic for North-East communities, the wider Scottish economy and our energy security – but the SNP are equally committed to turning off the taps in the North Sea straight away.

Douglas Ross: We are the only party standing up for this crucial industry (pic: Terry Murden)

“Humza Yousaf must think people in the North-East are buttoned up the back if they’re to believe the SNP is a friend of the oil and gas industry, when his partnership with the extremist Greens is predicated on shutting it down.

“The reality – as on so many other issues – is that you can barely put a cigarette paper between Labour and the SNP on this.

“Their position is economically and environmentally illiterate because it would decimate jobs and communities while increasing our reliance on imported fossil fuels with a bigger carbon footprint.

“The Scottish Conservatives are the only party standing up for this crucial industry.”

In his speech today, Mr Yousaf accused successive Westminster governments of squandering revenue from the North Sea.

“Since the 1970s more than £300 billion has flowed to the Treasury in oil and gas taxation,” he said. “Instead of using that revenue to build up infrastructure here in Aberdeen, to grow the economy, to tackle poverty or invest in public services, that money was squandered by successive Westminster Governments to prop up a failing economic system.

“Some would argue that this is a historic issue.  A mistake of the past.  But it has relevance today, because we are on the verge of a similar opportunity.

“Scotland can be at the forefront of the green energy revolution. The development of a green hydrogen sector in Scotland could support up to 300,000 jobs and add up to £25bn to Scotland’s GVA by 2045.

“The expansion of our renewable energy sector is surely one of the greatest export opportunities Scotland will ever have. We must grasp this opportunity with both hands. We simply can’t afford to see another generation of opportunity squandered by Westminster.”

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