PMQs: Rishi Sunak accuses Scottish Government of abandoning North Sea energy sector
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has accused the Scottish Government of abandoning the Scottish energy industry after it yesterday said there would be a “presumption against” new North Sea oil and gas exploration.
During today’s session of Prime Minister’s Questions, Sunak was told by SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn that the union does not “add up” for the people of Scotland.
“The longest and deepest recession in the entire G7; Brexit; 13 years of Tory rule; the energy price crisis; inflation and interest rates,” he said.
“If the people of Scotland are to do the maths, as the prime minister so hopes, will they not come to the conclusion that this union simply does not add up?”
Sunak focused on energy prices in his response, noting that “energy is incredibly important to Scotland” but that we “now know that the Scottish Government doesn’t want to support the Scottish energy industry and the 200,000 jobs it supports”.
He was referring to yesterday’s publication of the Scottish Government’s draft energy and just transition plan, in which a proposal to adopt a presumption against new oil and gas exploration was outlined.
Energy secretary Michael Matheson told the Scottish Parliament that while the Scottish Government has no powers to influence production it is “seeking views on a more robust climate compatibility checkpoint, including for oil and gas fields that are already licensed but not developed, and on a presumption of no new exploration in the North Sea”.
In his response, Flynn said that Scotland is “energy rich but fuel poor on Westminster’s watch” before going on to question Sunak about revelations from Sky News and Tortoise Media that Boris Johnson has earned £1m from making four speeches since stepping down as prime minister last year.
“It’s perverse that senior members of the Conservative Party are feathering their nest while seeking to deny ordinary people the right to strike for their pay,” he said, in reference to Sunak’s planned anti-strike legislation.
In turn, Sunak, who earlier admitted that he has in the past seen an “independent GP” despite being registered with an NHS practice, accused the SNP of ignoring the plight of ordinary workers, noting that the Scottish Parliament yesterday held a debate on how to secure another independence referendum when it “should have been talking about jobs”.
During a session of Scottish questions that preceded PMQs, Scottish secretary Alister Jack was quizzed on the benefits he thought Brexit had brought to the people of Scotland.
SNP member Marion Fellows noted that HMRC figures showed that Scottish exports to the EU fell by £2.2bn between 2019 and 2021 at a cost of £4bn to Scotland’s economy and went on to ask Jack what he is doing to “protect Scotland from this Tory-inspired act of self-harm”.
Jack, who claimed Scotland is already benefiting from UK-negotiated trade deals as well as better-controlled borders and fishing waters, said “other factors” had impacted on the numbers quoted, including Covid and “the illegal war in Ukraine”.
He added that in the first two quarters of 2022 the UK “did more trade with the EU than in any quarter when we were members of the EU”.
When SNP MP Angela Crawley asked Jack whether it was “right” that the people of Scotland should suffer as a consequence of his party’s Brexit ideology, the Scottish secretary responded that the UK Government “respects the outcome of referendums”, adding that the SNP has not respected the outcome of the 2014 independence referendum.
The SNP’s Phillipa Whitford said there were “no real Brexit opportunities or sunlit uplands” and asked whether Jack was surprised that a recent poll found that “69 per cent of Scottish voters want to rejoin the EU”.
Noting that “opinion polls come and go”, Jack pointed to a survey carried out by Survation on behalf of Scotland in Union that last week found that 59 per cent of Scots want to remain in the UK.
Despite this, Whitford asked Jack whether he recognised that the “only route back to the EU for Scotland is as an independent country”.
To roars from the SNP benches, Jack said there is “no desire” in Scotland to regain membership of the EU.
He added that when “people stop and think about it they know their home is in the United Kingdom”.