Keir Starmer is facing a push from critics to reconsider his proposition of halting new oil and gas licences without an effective plan in place for replacing jobs in the North Sea sector.

The trade union Unite strongly criticised this policy as hasty and recklessly vague, stating it could initiate a sharp downward spiral for workers in the oil industry.

The Labour Party has committed to ceasing the issuance of new offshore licenses if it secures power in Westminster, as part of efforts to reduce fossil fuel emissions. Existing licences granted before the general election will be respected.

This includes the contentious Rosebank oil field near Shetland – the most significant undeveloped site in the North Sea – which received approval from the Conservatives last year.

Under its recent campaign “No Ban Without A Plan”, Unite, which represents the majority of offshore workers, contended that the proposed policy would prompt increased fossil fuel imports while endangering jobs in the North East.

Unite is instead advocating for a detailed plan from Labour to generate 35,000 new “energy transition jobs” in Scotland by 2030.

Employment opportunities could arise in fields such as wind power manufacturing and operations, hydrogen, carbon capture, and the decommissioning of oil rigs.

north sea oil
Oil and gas fields are a significant source of jobs in the north east.
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Sharon Graham, the General Secretary of Unite, said: “Labour needs to reevaluate this injudicious policy.”

“There doesn’t seem to be a reliable plan in place for replacing jobs in the North Sea or maintaining energy security.

“We should not abandon one resource without having a future one secured.”

“Workers need to be at the core of such transitions. Unite will not stand idle while these workers risk losing their livelihoods.

“Workers in the North Sea cannot be abandoned in the race towards net zero.”

Scotland previously failed to meet an ambitious target set by the SNP government for the creation of green jobs, far short of the 130,000 posts promised by 2020.

In January, Scotland reported a significant 90% shortfall in achieving its target for domestic offshore wind jobs.

Specialists have indicated that an excessive portion of the wealth and job opportunities in sectors like renewable manufacturing are being outsourced overseas, rather than creating opportunities in Scotland.

Unite argued that a modest investment of £1.1 billion per year could create 35,000 green jobs, which pales in comparison to the £36 billion profit made by oil giants in the North Sea last year.

The union argued that transitioning workers will require “good union jobs” that offer comparable pay and benefits as their current roles, stating: “Their new jobs should not lead to a decline in their living standards.”

If elected, the union has urged Starmer’s party to focus on developing a “self-sufficient” energy system, with 75% of our energy being produced domestically and an end to profiteering from overseas energy supplies.

Labour had previously retracted a promise to allocate £28 billion a year towards the revolution of clean energy.

Nevertheless, the party maintains that significant investments will be made if they come into power, including the founding of a public energy company called GB Energy, headquartered in Scotland.

Starmer has also projected that his plans will lead to the creation of 50,000 direct and indirect jobs in the clean power sector by 2030.

Ed Miliband, Labour’s Shadow Energy Secretary, expressed: “Labour will unwaveringly commit to a flourishing future for the North Sea. “

“We will bring upon unprecedented investment in the North Sea in pursuit of energy independence and reduced bills. If re-elected, the Conservatives in Westminster and the SNP in Glasgow will continue to dismiss workers and communities by leaving the industry without a roadmap for the future, as they have for the past 14 years.”

“We stand with anyone who emphasizes the need for a comprehensive plan, and that’s precisely what Labour pledges to deliver with our world-leading agenda: Great British Energy; a National Wealth Fund; our British Jobs Bonus; and the New Deal for Working People.”