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by Margaret Taylor
10 July 2024
Keir Starmer beefs up government with trio of Scottish appointments

Former Climate Change Committee head Chris Stark will lead the government's clean energy Mission Control centre | Alamy

Keir Starmer beefs up government with trio of Scottish appointments

Prime Minister Keir Starmer has added two further Scottish MPs and the Glasgow-based former head of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) to his government.

During the election campaign Starmer promised to put Scotland “at the beating heart” of the UK and has long said his government would launch a state-owned energy company to be headquartered north of the border.

On a visit to Edinburgh at the weekend the prime minister underscored his commitment to both Scotland and the energy sector when he said he would work alongside the Scottish Government to save jobs at the Grangemouth oil refinery.

He has now appointed former CCC chief executive Chris Stark, who recently took on the same role at climate consultancy the Carbon Trust, as head of a newly established Mission Control centre.

The centre will sit within energy secretary Ed Miliband’s department and will focus on accelerating the transition to clean power by 2030.

New MP Kirsty McNeill, who represents the Midlothian constituency and was an adviser to Gordon Brown when he was prime minister, has been made a junior minister in the Scotland Office, working alongside Scottish secretary Ian Murray.

Michael Shanks, who prior to the election had been one of only two Scottish Labour MPs after winning the Rutherglen and Hamilton West byelection last year, has been made a junior minister under Miliband.

Speaking about Stark’s appointment, Miliband said that “years of underinvestment” have damaged energy security in the UK, but that the Mission Control centre would “turbocharge the government’s mission to provide Britain with cheaper and clean power by 2030”.

“This new Mission Control centre, benefiting from the expertise and experience of Chris Stark’s leadership – and bringing together the brightest and best in the national interest – will have a laser-like focus on delivering our mission of clean power by 2030,” he said. 

“Making Britain a clean energy superpower will not only keep bills down, it will also create hundreds of thousands of good jobs, while protecting national security by keeping dictators out of our energy markets.

“And, of course, it will allow us to play a leading role in tackling the climate crisis.”

Stark, who prior to joining the CCC was director of energy and climate change at the Scottish Government, thanked the Carbon Trust for its understanding after he left the organisation after just three months.

“I want to say how grateful I am to the Carbon Trust,” he wrote on LinkedIn. “It is a brilliant, impact-driven organisation, with so many talented people.

“We are on the cusp of an exciting new direction so I’m sad to leave so soon. They have been so supportive of this (genuinely) surprise move in the last few days.”

In a statement, he added that tackling the climate crisis and accelerating the transition to clean power “is the country’s biggest challenge, and its greatest opportunity”.

“By taking action now, we can put the UK at the forefront of the global race to net zero – driving down our carbon emissions but also cutting bills for households,” he said.

“It is a privilege to head up this work alongside the country’s top energy experts who will make this mission a reality.”

McNeill said it is “an honour” to be appointed to a government that “has Scotland at its beating heart”.

“Teaming up with Scottish Secretary Ian Murray in a resurgent Scotland Office, I will work across our country and far beyond to build a brighter future for all,” she said.

“Now for action and my absolute priority in the role will be to deliver the change and renewal that Scotland needs – to drive economic growth, create jobs and reduce poverty.”

Shanks said it is “an enormous privilege” to be given the government role, adding: “We campaigned on a plan for energy independence, green jobs and lowering bills and now we set about delivering it with Scotland at the centre.”

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