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Anas Sarwar: UK and Scottish governments should follow Aberdeen Council leadership on energy transition

Anas Sarwar unveiled his party's new Energy Transition Commission on a visit to Aberdeen on Friday.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has said following Aberdeen City Council’s example would put the Scottish and UK governments on a “path to success” for the transition towards net zero.

On a visit to Aberdeen on Friday, Mr Sarwar also confirmed his party were against the opening of the Cambo oil field – but said that position must be tied with “not sacrificing tens of thousands of jobs”.

Earlier this month, days after the end of the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave her strongest opposition yet to the new oil field, which is located west of Shetland.

At the Scottish Parliament, she said: “I don’t think we can continue to give the go ahead to new oil fields, so I don’t think that Cambo should get the green light.”

Her comment was given in response to a call from Labour’s then-spokeswoman for net zero, energy and transport Monica Lennon, who quit the party’s front bench the day before Mr Sarwar’s trip to the north-east.

‘Stop Cambo is not an energy policy’

Speaking to the P&J at the Aberdeen offices of Oil & Gas UK, the Scottish Labour leader echoed the first minister’s sentiment, but said she must go further.

He said: “We don’t support Cambo. It’s not consistent with our obligations and our commitments around achieving net zero.

“But at the same time ‘Stop Cambo’ is not an energy policy – it’s a slogan, it’s a strapline, but it’s not an energy policy.

“If we are going to not go ahead with the Cambo oil field, which I don’t think we should, then the UK and the Scottish governments need to do the work and make the investments and support industries so we can make sure that we’re not sacrificing tens of thousands of jobs.”

Monica Lennon MSP, who stepped down as Scottish Labour’s net zero, energy and transport spokeswoman on Thursday

For inspiration, Mr Sarwar said the UK and Scottish governments could look to Aberdeen City Council, which is led by Labour’s Jenny Laing.

He said: “In all my conversations with the council, they are acutely aware of the challenges that face Aberdeen and the wider north-east around this jobs-first transition.

“They recognise the importance of projects like the Acorn Project, they recognise the importance of having a jobs-first transition, they recognise the importance of having a diverse energy policy, but they need the back-up and the support of the UK and the Scottish Government.

“I think if they followed the leadership of what the Labour Party is doing in the council, then I think that is a good model that can take the Scottish and the UK governments on a path to success rather than the trajectory at the moment, on a path of failure.”

Energy Transition Commission launched

Mr Sarwar also used his OGUK visit to unveil the Energy Transition Commission, which will be headed by former UK energy minister Brian Wilson.

The taskforce, he said, will look at the principles – or “tests” – of affordability, employability and security in order to help Scotland achieve a “just transition” for the energy industry.

The mishandling of the Cambo decision would “hammer” Aberdeen and the north-east and also “fail those three tests”, the party leader said.

Addressing the departure of Ms Lennon from his front bench, Mr Sarwar said: “I’ve got a really excellent relationship with Monica, she is a phenomenal parliamentarian and we’re lucky and blessed to have her as part of our Labour team in the Scottish Parliament.

“I have her full support, she has my full support, and this was a personal decision for personal reasons which I think should be respected.

“Monica knows she may well come back to the senior front bench team any time.”

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