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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
01 March 2024
Rishi Sunak: Labour putting virtue signalling ahead of UK energy security

Rishi Sunak speaking at the Scottish Conservative annual conference in Aberdeen | Alamy

Rishi Sunak: Labour putting virtue signalling ahead of UK energy security

Rishi Sunak has accused Labour of putting “virtue signalling” ahead of the UK’s energy security.  

The prime minister made the remark during his speech at the Scottish Conservatives spring conference in Aberdeen.  

He told party members that Labour “don’t want to ban all oil and gas”, rather only “British oil and gas” as they will look to stop British oil and gas exploration if elected to government at the next general election

Sunak said: “It shows so clearly that their values are not our country's values, that they put virtue signalling ahead of our nation's energy security.” 

The prime minister told delegates that if Labour are elected to government following the general election it would put the country “back to square one”. 

He cast a bleaker outlook in Scotland if the SNP are to be successful at the general election, characterising it as “even more stark”. 

Sunak said: “If Labour will take us back to square one, the SNP will take Scotland back literally 300 years. 

“Nobody should be in any doubt about the continuing threat they pose to Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.” 

Speaking to members of the media ahead of his speech, Sunak criticised the spending of the SNP in government and said they have made Scotland “the high tax capital of the UK”.  

“The contrast with the SNP could not be starker when it comes to taxation, and it’s not just people, it’s small businesses,” the prime minister said.   

He made the distinction between running a pub, restaurant or cafe in Scotland compared to in England and told party members that businesses are paying business rates “three times the level” of its equivalent in England.” 

Sunak said: “In England, we have chosen to discount business rate bills for all of our small and medium size businesses. The SNP government has not done that and those pubs, restaurants, cafes are all paying thousands of pounds more in business rates.” 

The prime minister was asked if any extra funding can be allocated to help councils, after a number of them wrote to the chancellor this week.  

Sunak said the Scottish Government has been provided with a “record block grant” of £41bn and they are “accountable” for how they decide to spend that money.  

He added that the UK Government made the decision to provide a further £600m support for councils in England, “that was a decision we made within our budget,” he said.  

Pressed on whether that meant there would be no more money afforded to councils, the prime minister said: “The question is really, why are the SNP government choosing to make the choices they are and not able to prioritise the things that matter to people?

“That’s what happens when you are focused on the wrong priorities, if you are obsessively focused with independence, and not on public services like the NHS, like schools, like cutting crime.  

“People are going to see the result of those decisions.” 

He was asked about calls from councillors for the UK Government to step in and fund councils directly through Barnett consequentials.  

Deferring the question to Alister Jack, he dismissed the suggestion that this could happen, saying “this is a matter for them [the Scottish Government]”.  

Jack said: “It’s very important that we defend the devolution settlement. We know the Scottish Government wants to destroy the devolution settlement because they want to break up the United Kingdom. 

“We defend it. And part of defending it is giving them a block grant and the consequentials, that is for them to spend it as they see fit.” 

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Read the most recent article written by Ruaraidh Gilmour - Scotland's circular economy: What goes around comes around.

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