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by Margaret Taylor
07 June 2024
Sarwar to unveil detail of GB Energy during campaign stop in Aberdeen

Anas Sarwar will visit Aberdeen today | Alamy

Sarwar to unveil detail of GB Energy during campaign stop in Aberdeen

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar will today commit to ensuring the north east of Scotland remains “an energy powerhouse for generations to come” during a campaign stop in Aberdeen.

UK Labour leader Keir Starmer has pledged to put Scotland “at the beating heart” of a clean-energy UK and has since 2022 spoken about basing a publicly owned energy company north of the border should he prove successful at the general election.

The Labour leader has drip-fed details about the company, which will be called GB Energy, but so far nothing substantive is known about where it will be based or what it will do. Although the state-owned power company forms the centrepiece of Labour’s plan to decarbonise electricity supply, it has emerged that it will not be a generation company but rather an investment vehicle that works alongside existing suppliers.

The energy industry has long made the case that GB Energy should be based in Aberdeen, which has been hit hard by the decline in oil and gas over the past decade, but Labour has remained tight-lipped about whether it would house the company there.

It has, however, pledged to use the money it raises via a windfall tax on energy companies to pay for the company, which it says will deliver 53,000 new clean energy jobs in addition to cutting energy bills for British consumers.

Speaking ahead of his visit to Aberdeen, where Labour is targeting the seat currently held by SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, Sarwar said that Labour will “deliver the energy jobs of the future and futureproof the energy workforce”.

“This election is an opportunity to deliver the change that Scotland needs,” he said. “Labour’s bold energy plans would put Scotland in the global forefront of the transition to green energy.

“There will be a global leader in the transition – with Labour Scotland can be that leader.

“Our plans will deliver some 69,000 jobs to Scotland and drive down bills for Scots, paid for by a windfall tax on the excess profits of oil and gas giants.

“While the SNP tie themselves in knots on energy, Labour is clear – oil and gas will be part of the energy mix for decades to come and a Labour government will deliver the renewable energy infrastructure that we need for the future."

Energy has emerged as a key battleground in the election campaign, with the Conservatives, who earlier this year said they would legislate to mandate annual North Sea licensing rounds, remaining committed to issuing new oil and gas licences while Labour has said it would oppose them.

The SNP’s position on licences remains unclear. Although licensing is reserved to Westminster, former first minister Nicola Sturgeon opposed developments at Cambo and Rosebank and said no further drilling should take place in Scottish waters. At the start of last year her government said it could no longer support its previous position of "maximising economic recovery" of fossil fuel reserves.

The Scottish Government is due to publish its energy strategy in the coming weeks, but during an STV leader’s debate earlier this week First Minister John Swinney refused to be drawn on whether its position on drilling had changed.

During a campaign stop in Linlithgow, Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes said the SNP had “never said no” to new oil and gas licences but rather that “all further licensing must be compatible with a climate-change test”.

During yesterday’s session of First Minister’s Questions Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross asked Forbes, who was sitting in for Swinney, whether the SNP believes the granting of new oil and gas licences in the North Sea “is essential, not only for our energy security, but to protect tens of thousands of jobs here in Scotland”.

Forbes said that the SNP is “absolutely crystal clear in our support for a just transition for Scotland's oil and gas sector which recognises the declining nature of the North Sea Basin and is in line with our climate change commitments”.

“The difference between this party and the Conservatives is that we will never abandon our workers, we will never leave a legacy of inequality, and we will never destroy communities like the Tories did in the last transition,” she said.

“Any further extraction must be consistent with our climate obligations, and we must approach licensing on a rigorously evidence-led case-by-case basis, with robust climate compatibility and energy security being key considerations.”

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