The National:

EARLIER this week Liam Kerr, a Conservative MSP for the North East, accused Greens of wanting to put oil and gas workers out of their jobs. At the time I thought it absurd that a Tory was claiming to care about jobs or workers. After all, the whole point of Liam Kerr's Conservative Party is to support bosses and their interests against the wellbeing of workers. And of course, as Boris Johnson's mask slipped, we saw exactly what the Conservatives want: North Sea oil and gas workers to be sacrificed to an energy transition. 

Everyone knows that the Conservatives have previous on this. In the 1980s they sacrificed coal mining communities to an ideological war on workers. Much of British industry followed as the Tories preferred the interests of bankers in the City of London to manufacturing jobs. 

The Conservatives have finally realised that the climate emergency is going to be a threat to big business as usual. That's why they are beginning to talk the talk on climate action. The danger is that the short-term interests of bosses are in conflict with the medium and long-term aim of averting climate breakdown. And Boris Johnson just told us whose side the Tories are really on. 

READ MORE: Boris Johnson slammed for 'crass jokes' about Margaret Thatcher closing coal mines

It is easy to dismiss Boris Johnson as a buffoon, but his massive popularity with the Tory membership stems from his articulation of their core beliefs: Islamophobia, sexism, and in this case, contempt for workers. And you can see the contempt for workers in the total failure of the Tory government to put in place any sort of plan for jobs once we are not able to extract oil and gas any longer. 

The deep cynicism of Kerr's comments is that he couldn't care less about workers. We all know that he is using the lives and livelihoods of oil and gas workers as a political football. In 2019 the BiFab renewables fabrication yard was in trouble. The massive Neart Na Gaoithe offshore wind installation offered an opportunity to save the jobs at BiFab. The UK Government’s Scottish Secretary Alister Jack is meant to represent Scotland’s interests in Westminster, though he seems more interested in representing the interests of Westminster to Scotland. He let the cat out of the bag when talking about the decision to manufacture those turbines in Indonesia. He said that “he didn’t know the answer” to how many of the promised 1000 jobs had been created in the UK, and that it was “market forces” which meant that manufacturing went to Indonesia. 

This is the Tory "plan". Wait until oil and gas becomes uneconomic, by which time the skills and investment for manufacturing renewables will have been lost to other countries. Then oil and gas workers will be left with the sort of "transition" that the coal communities were subjected to in the 1980s. We know the market won’t solve this problem. We know that we need to take control of the energy future. 

What we need is a "just transition", led by oil and gas workers to identify a way out of the climate crisis while ensuring that there are good jobs for the people of the North East and beyond. 

We need to focus on the jobs we can create in renewables - especially tidal power - decommissioning oil and gas, developing new technology for heating our homes and buildings, and in the industries of the future like data science and coding. 

If we are to create those jobs we need a plan, not cynical Tories exploiting the fears of oil and gas workers.

We have seen Boris Johnson’s blueprint for energy transition: Leave whole communities without employment as in the decline we have seen in former coal mining areas across Scotland. More than 30 years after Thatcher wrecked coal jobs there still is no plan for the communities that live on.

At the moment the wind turbines we are installing are almost all manufactured abroad. We need to get serious about creating a supply chain for all the components that we need for wind turbines. We need the same domestic economy for the tidal turbines and for the solar installations that will be needed to transition our energy economy. There are substantial jobs in this manufacturing. But because the UK Government cares more about bosses than jobs, those jobs are in Indonesia, where workers rights and environmental protections can be ignored. 

READ MORE: Boris Johnson in Scotland: Scottish Tories frustrated by PM's Thatcher joke

We need to get everyone in Scotland behind the energy transition. That requires backing from the Scottish Government, it needs investment and it needs the UK Government to get serious about actions on energy transition. 

We have seen this week who is serious about bringing jobs in renewables to Scotland, and who thinks that people’s jobs and livelihoods are something to make jokes about. If you are serious about this, please do get in touch so we can begin to create an energy transition that really works.