Keir Starmer pledges to launch green energy company in Scotland
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has used a visit to a Leith tidal energy business to unveil plans for the launch of a Scotland-based public energy company should Labour win power at the next election.
Speaking at the headquarters of Nova Innovation, Starmer accused the governments at Holyrood and Westminster of failing to capitalise on the UK’s potential in green energy and said a Labour government would establish an organisation in the mould of Ørsted in Denmark or Vattenfall in Sweden.
“We will set up a proper national champion, Great British Energy, [and] we will grow the industries of tomorrow here,” he said.
“And because it’s right for jobs, because it’s right for investing in our communities, and because it’s right for national security, GB Energy will be publicly owned.
“And let me also be clear, GB Energy will be a shared project owned by all four nations on these islands. So we will set up a governance structure that will protect its long-term future.
“Whoever is in power in Westminster, whoever is in power in Holyrood, this will be the driving force for a new Britain.”
He said the organisation would be based in Scotland because “the skills are here” and because of “Scottish ingenuity”, adding that it would be “a down-payment on a new Scotland”.
It comes after a recent poll suggested Labour’s growing support in Scotland had fallen after Starmer pledged to abandon new North Sea drilling should he form the next UK Government.
At the end of last month the party’s shadow work and pension secretary Jonathan Ashworth confirmed leaked reports that the party would block all new domestic developments, preferring instead to focus investment on renewables.
“We know we’ve got to move to more renewable sources of energy,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday show.
“It’s important for our climate change commitments, but it’s also the way in which we can bring energy bills down for consumers.
“This isn’t about shutting down what’s going on now. We will manage those sustainably.”
However, the plan caused widespread concern across the energy industry in the North East of Scotland, which has been promised the transition away from fossil fuels will be managed in a way that sustains jobs rather than creating a cliff edge.
David Whitehouse, chief executive of trade body Offshore Energies UK, said the presumption against any new developments would put 90,000 Scottish jobs at risk, saying it was “no way to treat” those working in the industry.
A poll from Redfield & Wilton Strategies, conducted in the days after the strategy was revealed, found that Starmer’s approval rating in Scotland had fallen into negative territory, with 32 per cent of Scots disapproving of his performance while 29 per cent approved.
A previous poll, conducted before the energy policy was briefed, found that 28 per cent disapproved of his performance while 30 per cent approved.
Labour has since confirmed that it would not grant licences to explore new fields in the North Sea, but that it would honour those already signed off at the time of the next general election, which are likely to include the Rosebank development west of Shetland.
In his speech today Starmer said that fossil fuel energy “plays a huge role” in the Scottish economy and is also “part of the social fabric”.
“Communities depend on it – the jobs it provides, good jobs for working people, they’re precious,” he added.
However, he said a government led by him would focus on investing in clean energies instead of further fossil fuel developments because “if we wait until North Sea oil and gas runs out, the opportunities this change can bring for Scotland and your community will pass us by, and that would be a historic mistake”.
The Scottish Greens accused the Labour leader of “political opportunism” for failing to rule out any new oil and gas developments, saying that by effectively giving his backing to Rosebank Starmer has shown that he “does not understand the climate crisis”.
“Unless Labour is willing to state categorically that it will scrap Rosebank then they will have lost all credibility on our climate,” said Mark Ruskell, Scottish Greens climate spokesperson.
“The decision over oil and gas licences lies with Westminster so, as it stands, if the Tories lose the next election, only Labour are capable of stopping this environmental disaster from going ahead – but they have said they won’t.
“Sir Keir Starmer and Scottish leader Anas Sarwar are telling generations of young people their futures don’t matter, that they will instead enable Equinor [the lead operator at Rosebank] that to burn through 300 million barrels of oil, despite the science against it.”