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Rishi Sunak To Use Scottish Trip To Attack Labour Stance On North Sea Oil

Rishi Sunak is to make a visit to north-east Scotland focused on North Sea energy that is intended to draw a dividing line between the government and Labour’s plan to ban new oil and gas projects.

While No 10 said in advance only that the prime minister would use the trip to Aberdeenshire to commit to policies connected to energy security and net zero, he is expected to announce funding for a planned carbon capture scheme in the region.

The money will be provided for the already mooted Acorn carbon capture and storage project, which had initially missed out when two other sites were chosen for such schemes in 2021, one in Humber and Teesside, and the other in Liverpool Bay.

A Downing Street announcement said that Sunak was to “confirm that Scotland will continue to be at the forefront of UK government plans to strengthen the UK’s long-term energy security”, giving no further details. However, the Times reported that the prime minister will use the trip to announce the government will issue 100 licences for companies that want to extract oil and gas from the North Sea.

The No 10 statement said the prime minister will meet “key energy industry figures and companies”, and outline policies to ensure energy security. He is due to begin by appearing on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland on Monday.

As well as giving Sunak a relatively rare foray into Scotland, where the Conservatives are seen as vulnerable in the six seats they hold, the visit is also intended as a chance to attack Labour’s plans on energy.

Keir Starmer’s party, which is hopeful of winning back a series of Scottish seats, has pledged to ban drilling for new oil and gas projects in the North Sea, although existing wells would remain operational for decades to come, and make heavy investments in green technologies to create jobs.

Environmental groups and scientists have said an end to new fossil fuel projects is vital to meet net zero goals, but Sunak and his ministers have argued that the ban could leave the UK vulnerable.

Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said his party welcomed investment in carbon capture and storage but he sought assurances after the Acorn project was overlooked in 2021. “There can be no more broken promises or delays. Now is the time to strike on Scotland’s green energy potential,” he said.

The Scottish Greens, the SNP’s partners in government, said that while carbon capture and storage had a role, it “must not be used as a justification for more North Sea drilling, which will have a devastating impact on our environment and take us even closer to climate breakdown”.

Ed Miliband, the shadow climate secretary, said: “Every family and business is paying the price, in higher energy bills, of 13 years of failed Tory energy policy. It is absurd that having left this country so exposed, the Conservative party is asking the public to believe they can fix it.

“And it’s telling that while Labour focuses on lower bills and good jobs, Rishi Sunak lurches desperately towards a culture war on climate to appease his split party, losing track of what he believes from day to day, depending on which faction he’s met with.

“It’s no way to govern and it’s costing working people.”

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