Starmer defends private jet to announce energy plans - and insists he's 'not turning off taps' on oil and gas

Sir Keir Starmer insisted he is "not turning off the taps" on oil and gas after warnings his plan for a state-owned clean energy company will lead to thousands of job losses.

The Labour leader rejected criticism from unions that his flagship policy is "a ban without a plan" because it will cost more jobs than it will create.

It came as he faced ridicule for travelling to Scotland to announce the green policy on a private jet - something his party has previously criticised Rishi Sunak for doing.

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Asked by Sky News' Tamara Cohen if he is worried about losing votes north of the border - where he plans to headquarter GB Energy - Sir Keir said: "I've been very clear when it comes to the transition [to clean energy] that we're not turning off the taps on oil and gas.

"Oil and gas will be part of the mix for many years, we are not revoking any licences."

However, he went on to say that a "transition is coming" and he wanted to avoid the mistakes of the coal-mine closures under the Thatcher-era.

"The worst thing we can do now is do what Rishi Sunak is doing and put our head in the sand," he said.

"That's what happened when coal was coming to an end and we are still paying the price in communities across the whole of Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom.

"I am not prepared to let that happen under a future Labour government.

"This is about the next generation of jobs, and the generation after that."

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Labour first announced its plans for Great British Energy at the party's conference in 2022.

To be headquartered in Scotland, the publicly owned company will own, manage and operate clean projects in a move which Labour says will help secure domestic supplies and cut household bills.

On the campaign trail in Inverclyde on Friday, Sir Keir vowed to get the company up and running within months of a Labour government.

Labour said initial investments will be made within weeks, including in wind and solar projects, and as the firm grows, it will look into floating offshore wind, hydrogen, and carbon capture in the hope of making Scotland "a world leader in cutting-edge technologies".

The plans have been endorsed by Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK's pandemic-era scientific adviser, who said the benefits of GB Energy are "lower energy bills, good jobs, more innovative businesses, energy security, and climate leadership."

But Labour has also been accused of putting jobs at risk by unions, who typically support the party.

Organisations with members in the oil and gas sector, such as Unite, have called for more detail and swifter movement by Labour to ensure the just transition.

The SNP has honed in on these concerns in their line of attack, saying 100,000 jobs are at risk and money GB Energy generates will be invested into the rest of the UK, not just Scotland.

Deputy first minister Kate Forbes told Sky News: "With about £20bn worth of revenue set to flow from the northeast over to the Treasury in the coming six years, I don't think Scotland should be somehow grateful that GB Energy should be based in Scotland."

Meanwhile, the Tories ridiculed the policy, claiming the new logo, unveiled today, was copied off the internet.

The logo, a cartoon lightbulb, is similar to one used by We Think Advertising, who are based in New York.

Sir Keir also faced criticism for travelling to the event in a private jet, given Labour have previously branded the prime minister "out of touch" for doing this and has promised to crack down on "Tory ministers' private jet habit" if it wins the election.

The Labour leader said he had to get from Wales to Scotland "very quickly" and the party always offsets carbon whenever it travels by plane.

But Richard Holden, Conservative Party chairman, said: "Nothing better illustrates Starmerism than the fact Sir Keir has flown on a private jet to Scotland, to launch a stock logo of something u-turning in on itself, for an energy company which won't produce any energy - that's not a plan to keep our energy secure and our country protected from Putin."