First minister says windfall tax ‘has gone too far’

First Minister John Swinney

FIRST Minister John Swinney has said the windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas has gone “too far”.

Responding to the 39th Energy Transition report – which is produced by Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC), in partnership with KPMG and ETZ Ltd – the first minister said the Energy Profits Levy was causing investment uncertainty.

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Industry confidence in UK activities has plunged to a record low, according to the long-running survey, with high taxes and a potential exploration ban threatening to bring our world class domestic oil and gas industry to a premature end. It also warns the new UK Government will have 100 days to save 100,000 North Sea jobs once it takes office.

The report was front and centre of the General Election campaign yesterday, which resulted in Mr Swinney being pressed on its findings by Sky News.

Despite initially supporting the 75% tax on oil and gas profits, Mr Swinney signalled a shift in policy direction when asked if he supported it now.

“Well I think the windfall tax proposal – which we’ve supported some up until now because they were appropriate – but they’ve been extended, and they’ve been extended too far in my view,” he said.

“As a consequence of that it’s causing real investment uncertainty and real uncertainty for the renewables journey of the oil and gas sector.

“So what’s important is that we ensure we take the sector with us and take considered judgements because we will need the expertise of the energy sector and the oil and gas sector to contribute on our journey to net zero which we must make to fulfil our obligations on the climate.”

However, Mr Swinney dodged a question on whether the SNP would drop the proposed presumption against future oil and gas from its energy strategy when published this summer.

The party’s leader at Westminster, Stephen Flynn, hinted that the presumption could be reversed.

He said: “The Scottish Government has a draft energy policy that is out for consultation. The Scottish Government will, of course, in due course come forward with its final energy strategy. The energy strategy, as it stands, is not published in its final form. I’m very much looking forward to it being published in its final form.

“I think we all need to recognise, irrespective of where you are, the importance of the oil and gas sector to Scotland’s economy and the fact that those 100,000 individuals that we are talking about are absolutely crucial in our journey to net zero.”

Responding to the comments, Mr Sarwar told The Scotsman that “oil and gas will play a significant role for decades to come”.

But pointing to the SNP, the Scottish Labour leader claimed “people are starting to see through” the party trying to “say one thing to one audience and another thing to another audience”, adding “we are being upfront and open about what our plan is”.

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