Budget row

Scottish Tories revolt over windfall tax extension

Douglas Ross
Douglas Ross has been left exposed by Hunt’s North Sea tax (pic: Terry Murden / DB Media Services)

Open warfare has broken out between the Westminster and Scottish Tories after the Chancellor announced a one-year extension to the windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas company profits.

There were warnings from within the party that Jeremy Hunt’s decision to extend the energy profits levy to 2029 will wipe out already-vulnerable Tory support in the north east of Scotland, where the party holds three seats.

Scottish Tories privately expressed their fury that they have been left exposed after campaigning as the only party to fully support the oil and gas industry, including new exploration licences. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was in Aberdeen only last weekend proclaiming the party’s loyalty to the industry.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said he was deeply disappointed by the windfall tax decision and will not vote for it. It has emerged that he was involved in “heated” discussions with Mr Sunak as rumours emerged that Mr Hunt would extend the levy.

“The budget announcement is a step in the wrong direction,” he said after the Budget statement. “As such, I will not vote for the separate legislation needed to pass the windfall tax extension and will continue to urge the Chancellor to reconsider.”

Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, told the Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions that “the Conservative Party in Scotland are absolutely furious that Westminster is about to tax Scotland’s natural resources in order to pay for a tax cut in England”.

He joked: “Is the prime minister in danger of turning his colleagues in Scotland into nationalists?”

Andrew Bowie, the Tory MP for West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine, who had a majority of 843 in the last election, was said to have considered resigning as the energy minister, but after initially stating he shared Mr Ross’s disappointment he pulled back after speaking to the Chancellor.

There was further discomfort for Mr Ross when his party led a debate in the Scottish parliament on backing the oil and gas industry.

SNP MSP Kevin Stewart MSP said: “Douglas Ross will be glad he was in London while his own party pushed a badly-timed debate this afternoon on backing the oil and gas industry in Scotland – just hours after being publicly snubbed by his Westminster bosses.

“Despite working two jobs for the Tories, Douglas Ross has about as much influence over Tory policy as I do. He really is as inept as he is ineffective – and utterly failed to stand up for Scotland North Sea oil and gas workers at this crucial point in Scotland’s journey to Net Zero.

“Douglas Ross might be happy to be ignored by his Westminster bosses – but the SNP will always do what other parties cannot – stand up for Scotland’s interests and demand that Scottish jobs, Scotland’s economy and Scotland’s people benefit first from Scotland’s natural resources.”

Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, said the windfall tax extension “exposes Douglas Ross’s irrelevance in his own party and leaves the SNP to the right of the Tories on this issue”.

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