Sturgeon criticises PM over 'crass and insensitive' comments about Thatcher closing coal mines
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has joined a cross-party condemnation of Boris Johnson after he joked that Margaret Thatcher's began the transition away from fossil fuels by closing coal mines.
During a visit to Scotland yesterday, the prime minister said Thatcher had given the UK “a big early start” due to the pit closures of the 1980s.
Sturgeon said the comments were “crass and insensitive”.
Speaking to Scottish journalists as he visited the Moray East windfarm, the prime minister said the mass closure of pits had an environmental benefit.
Asked about the controversial Cambo oilfield and setting a date for the end of oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, the prime minister said: “We understand the importance to the north-east of Scotland of the oil and gas industry.
“The contracts that have been signed should not be just be ripped up. But we need to transition as fast as we reasonably can.”
Asked if he would set a deadline for the end of oil and gas, he replied: “Look at what we’ve done already. We've transitioned away from coal in my lifetime.
“Thanks to Margaret Thatcher, who closed so many coal mines across the country, we had a big early start and we’re now moving rapidly away from coal altogether. We're now down to less than 2 per cent, 1 per cent I think of our energy comes from coal.”
He chuckled, telling the journalists assembled for the virtual press conference: “I thought that'd get you going.”
Amid widespread condemnation of his comments, Sturgeon tweeted: “Lives & communities in Scotland were utterly devastated by Thatcher's destruction of the coal industry (which had zero to do with any concern she had for the planet). To treat that as something to laugh about is crass & deeply insensitive to that reality.”
Recent analysis found that the impact of the closures is still being felt in many communities, with coalfield towns and villages among the most disadvantaged areas of the country.
The Conservative government's colliery closure programme in the mid-80s led to a year-long miners' strike which ended in March 1985.
Labour MSP Monica Lennon described the comments as "disgusting, divisive and disrespectful".
She added: "Boris Johnson cannot be trusted on climate crisis, Covid recovery or on the constitution. Shame on @Douglas4Moray and the Scottish Tories for standing by Boris no matter how low he stoops."
Scottish Greens MSP Gillian Mackay said the prime minister's comments were “outrageous”.
She said: “Thatcher’s decimation of the coal industry had absolutely nothing to do with environmentalism and everything to do with her despicable anti-trade union ideology.
“Communities across Scotland were decimated by these cruel and vindictive policies which destroyed industry and left workers high and dry.
“It’s no surprise that Boris Johnson eulogises Thatcher, but we must ensure his government don’t repeat her actions as Scotland begins to transition from oil and gas to our renewables future.”
The prime minister's visit to the Scottish windfarm comes amid reports of disagreement in government over how to approach the COP26 summit in Glasgow later this year.
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