Almost a decade on from Scottish Labour’s 2015 general election wipe out, a spectre is once again haunting the party in Scotland – the spectre of Ed Miliband. Apparently not content with his role in leading the party to near oblivion in Scotland eight years ago, the shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero is now determined to stifle its recovery as well.
Miliband’s latest manoeuvres began more than a week ago, when he engineered an announcement that a future Labour government would not grant any new licences for oil and gas production in the North Sea. The announcement caused consternation not just from the industry itself, but also the Scottish Labour party, which was infuriated with its timing and largely blindsided by the policy shift. Many Labour MSPs – including some who remember the Miliband years all too well – were incandescent, and with good reason.
A ban on new licences would be economically ruinous for the north-east of Scotland, leaving the industry and its tens of thousands of employees facing a cliff-edge end to production. Even now, despite significant demand, oil and gas producers in the region are already struggling to make North Sea investments profitable due to the UK’s tax regime. Harbour Energy, the UK’s largest oil and gas producer in the North Sea, has already announced it is cutting around 350 jobs after the government’s energy price levy largely wiped out its profits. Labour’s policy – in effect calling time on the North Sea industry altogether – would clearly be a hundred times worse.
Yet the policy is not just economically illiterate, but self-defeating of Labour’s stated goal to deliver a transition to green and clean energy.