The former Labour leader of Aberdeen City Council has launched a scathing attack on Sir Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar for having “zero understanding” of the energy capital of Europe.
Barney Crockett sensationally quit the council’s Labour group last month after it launched an energy strategy he describes as “Thatcher on steroids”.
There was a major backlash over the party’s suggested ban on future oil and gas licences from industry leader and trade unions.
Speaking to the Press and Journal about his decision to step away from the party, Mr Crockett described being “taken aback” by the party’s North Sea vision.
It is understood Sir Keir will visit Aberdeen this summer alongside Mr Sarwar to discuss their controversial plans to end North Sea exploration.
But Mr Crockett doubts the trip will happen, and claims Sir Keir is deliberately avoiding it.
He also hit out at Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar as having “zero understanding” of Aberdeen, and expressed frustration at the city being ignored by party chiefs.
And he believes GB Energy, a planned publicly-owned energy company, won’t be located in Aberdeen if the decision is being made by a Glasgow-based leadership.
The UK Labour leader unveiled his party’s big pitch to shift from fossil fuels to renewables in Edinburgh last month.
The party have promised the strategy will deliver “jobs and investment” for Aberdeen and make the UK a clean energy superpower by 2030.
On the lack of engagement so far, Mr Crockett said: “We’ve seen Labour councillors demand that Keir Starmer as a priority should come to Aberdeen.
“It remains to be seen whether that will happen or not.
“It is deeply shocking that it hasn’t happened. That there has been no communication.
“To launch the policy in Edinburgh of all places was a staggering thing. We can’t get them to speak about Aberdeen.”
He added: “Sir Keir is definitely avoiding Aberdeen. He’d do anything rather than visit Aberdeen.
The former Labour stalwart’s remarks come in the wake of devastating wildfires breaking out across the Mediterranean, with temperatures soaring to record heights.
The climate crisis has led many to question whether governments should be issuing new oil and gas licences at all.
Mr Crockett says work to tackle the growing problem is necessary but adds it will have to be “incremental” rather than a “dramatic change moment”.
He fears an “abrupt turnaround” on oil and gas would hamper the energy transition by causing a downturn that forces workers to leave the region.
This has been exacerbated by what is seen as a lack of engagement from the Labour party towards the north-east’s energy industry.
Mr Crockett said: “I don’t think there has been any attempt to engage at all. It is really shocking there has been no contact.
“Labour are going very hard at making no unfunded commitments but they’re making giant comments about energy that are involving vast sums of money without really thinking it through.
“Keir Starmer is walking into a buzz saw in energy. They’re not processing what they’re doing, they’re not thinking. If they were then they would have answers about Aberdeen. They have no answers about Aberdeen because it isn’t thought through.”
‘Thatcher on steroids’
Mr Crockett has drawn parallels between what Labour is planning around the North Sea and Margaret Thatcher decimating mining communities in the 1980s.
But he thinks his former party’s approach is even worse than what the Conservative Party leader did because of the “massive reliance” Aberdeen has on energy.
He said: “There’s nowhere I know of that’s as much of a centre as Aberdeen.
“Almost all the oil and gas industry is based in Aberdeen. This is the main place. In all other countries that have a major fossil fuel industry, it’s spread around.
“When Labour politicians say they’re not going to repeat what Margaret Thatcher did the truth is, if they’re honest, they’re doing it in a much more concentrated way.
“There was no industry that Margaret Thatcher affected that was as concentrated as oil and gas is in Aberdeen. You’re speaking about tens of thousands of jobs.
“That never happened. In fact there was no industry that had tens of thousands jobs in a town.
“It’s Thatcher on steroids. If they’re honest, they need to face up to that. That’s one reason why there’s a great reluctance to talk about Aberdeen.”
Speaking in Edinburgh last month, Sir Keir sought to reassure industrial communities that his party’s green energy plans would not leave them behind.
He confirmed the party’s proposed new public body, GB Energy, would be based in Scotland.
The body would make available up to £600 million in funding for councils and up to £400m in low-interest loans each year for communities.
Sarah Boyack, Scottish Labour’s net zero spokeswoman, said: “Labour’s transformative green investment plan will deliver more jobs, lower bills and greater energy security.
“We have been absolutely clear that oil and gas will continue to have a role to play for decades to come, and we will continue to work closely with the industry and its workers to deliver a jobs-first transition.
“Scotland has the potential to be a world-leader in renewables, but only Labour has a real plan to unlock that potential and create the jobs and opportunities of the future.”