Ross challenges Yousaf and Sarwar to debate on future of oil and gas

23 February 2024, 17:04

Oil platform
Oil platform. Picture: PA

It comes after a fiery Holyrood question time on the windfall tax on energy company profits.

Douglas Ross has challenged Humza Yousaf and Anas Sarwar to debate him on the future of oil and gas.

The Scottish Conservative leader has written to his SNP and Labour counterparts to argue only his party has supported the North Sea industry “every step of the way”.

It follows a heated back-and-forth at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday over Labour’s proposals to extend the windfall tax on oil and gas company profits.

Following the fiery debate, Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce tweeted all three leaders to say it is willing to host a debate on the issue, asking: “How does next month sound?”

Mr Ross has now told his opponents he is “fully behind” the idea.

“The North Sea oil and gas industry is crucial not just to the 100,000 skilled workers it employs – predominantly in the north east – but to Scotland’s entire economy and energy security,” he said.

“That’s why I’m urging Humza Yousaf and Anas Sarwar to join me in a debate on the future of the sector, which has a key role to play in a just and managed transition to net zero.

First Minister’s Questions
Douglas Ross said a head-to-head debate should take place among the party leaders (Jane Barlow/PA)

“Behind the desperate spin and counter-spin of the SNP and Labour, the reality is both parties want to turn off the taps in the North Sea now.

“Only the Scottish Conservatives are standing up for the jobs of skilled workers in the north east.

“Humza Yousaf has some nerve criticising (UK Labour leader Sir) Keir Starmer’s reckless plans, when the SNP have a presumption against all new North Sea developments, opposed Rosebank and Cambo and were the first party to propose a windfall tax.”

Mr Ross also claimed Mr Yousaf “passing himself off as a friend” of the industry was “an insult” to the communities around it.

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: “Not one of Scotland’s three largest parties can claim to have a current energy policy that best serves the interests of businesses, jobs and the wider economy.”

Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said: “Labour will continue to engage with the industry and its workers to ensure jobs are protected, but no-one is buying Douglas Ross’s desperate attempt to pretend his out of touch party has workers’ interests at heart.

“Labour has a plan to lower bills for good, create 50,000 clean energy jobs in Scotland, and set up a publicly-owned GB Energy company right here.

“Oil and gas will remain a part of our energy system for decades to come and the immense skills and expertise of the industry’s workers are at the heart of Labour’s plans.

“At the next election, voters face a clear choice – lower bills, cleaner energy and more jobs with Labour or more economic chaos with the Tories and the SNP.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “The First Minister will be delighted to debate the energy future of the north east and Scotland in Aberdeen, and promote our proud record of defending jobs and communities.

“Between them, Tory and Labour governments at Westminster have squandered £400 billion of North Sea revenues and invested not a single penny for long-term benefit – in stark contrast to independent Norway, which has built up the biggest sovereign wealth fund in the world from its oil and gas wealth.

“The Tories have a long and dishonourable record of throwing industries and communities in Scotland on the scrap heap – from coal and steel to fishing – and Labour have dumped their green prosperity plan.

“The SNP Government, by contrast, is pledged to deliver a just transition for the north east, backed up by our £500 million Just Transition Fund.”

At FMQs on Thursday, Mr Yousaf condemned Labour plans to extend the windfall tax, arguing there is “palpable anger” from the oil and gas sector against proposals he claimed could cost 100,000 jobs.

He said he would maintain the windfall tax, but keep it at 75% and not use it to fund nuclear energy plants in England.

Scottish Tory North East MSP Douglas Lumsden later quipped the First Minister was “masquerading as the saviour” of the industry despite his presumption against new oil and gas licences.

By Press Association