Margaret Thatcher’s closing of the coal mines gave the UK an “early start” on fossil fuel transition, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed.
Speaking to journalists from a boat floating close to the Moray East wind farm on Thursday afternoon, Mr Johnson said the UK’s environmental policy would remain as “ambitious as possible” ahead of the Cop26 climate conference later this year.
The prime minister doubled down on his claims introducing safe consumption rooms for drug addicts would lead to an increase in substance taking.
In an online panel with Scottish journalists, Mr Johnson also said constitutional change “was not high on his agenda” while refusing to rule out a second referendum on Scottish independence before the end of the next parliamentary term.
Mr Johnson said contracts for oil extraction programmes like the one proposed at the Cambo site near Shetland “should not be ripped up”.
Thatcher’s decimation of the coal industry had absolutely nothing to do with environmentalism and everything to do with her despicable anti-trade union ideology.”
Scottish Green MSP Gillian Mackay
Asked by us how the UK Government would avoid post-industrial decline in areas like Aberdeen, home to the country’s oil and gas industries for the last 40 years, as well as making sure British companies are first in line for renewables contracts, Mr Johnson said: “The oil and gas sector has been a huge part of the UK economy for decades now and there has got to be a smooth and sensible transition.
“That doesn’t mean there aren’t massive opportunities to increase the use of green technology.
“I am here at Moray East Field of wind turbines; I don’t know if you have been here but it is absolutely mind boggling, machines like this simply did not exist six years ago.
“This is a technology that is in its infancy. I have been talking to young people who have transferred from the oil and gas industry into wind power, high-skilled jobs in wind power, and they are full of ideas about what they are doing.
“It is a fantastic transition to see.”
The turbines for Moray East were constructed in Denmark, while the supply and installation of the turbine and substation foundations was awarded to a Belgian company.
French company Effiage was given the contracts for the supply and installation of 100 jacket foundations for the turbines and Dutch firm Boskalis the inter-array cables that connect the turbines to each other, creating the circuit.
‘Thanks to Margaret Thatcher…’
Mr Johnson added: “Look at what we’ve done already. We’ve transitioned away from coal in my lifetime.
“Thanks to Margaret Thatcher, who closed so many coal mines across the country, we had a we had a big early start and we’re now moving rapidly away from coal altogether.
“We’re now, we’re now down to less than one to two percent, I think… of energy from coal.”
“(The UK has) a target for moving away from coal by 2040 and stopping the overseas financing of coal, as well as domestic consumption of coal, a target for moving away from hydrocarbon internal combustion engine vehicles by the 2030s and other countries and the EU is now signing up as well, though, the UK, as you know, was in the lead on that – we set a target of 2030 for internal combustion engines for cars.
“And then a target for planting millions of trees around the world and protecting the loss of biodiversity, and the ambitions, and all of that keeping the increase in our planet’s temperature to 1.5 degrees.
“Now, that is the ambition and I’m not denying that it’s going to be a tough ambition, this is a difficult thing to achieve, but it’s very clear what the Cop26 is there to do, and I hope that the leaders of the world will rise to it.”
Mine closures ‘decimated’ communities
Opposition party MSPs reacted furiously to the prime minister’s pit-closure claims, adding they had “nothing” to do with environmentalism.
Scottish Greens Central Scotland MSP Gillian Mackay said: “Thatcher’s decimation of the coal industry had absolutely nothing to do with environmentalism and everything to do with her despicable anti-trade union ideology.
“Communities across Scotland were decimated by these cruel and vindictive policies, which destroyed industry and left workers high and dry.
“It’s no surprise that Boris Johnson eulogises Thatcher, but we must ensure his government don’t repeat her actions as Scotland begins to transition from oil and gas to our renewables future.
“The Scottish Greens won’t allow the Tories to repeat the mistakes of the past.
“We will fight for a fair transition for workers that sees their jobs guaranteed in the sustainable industries of the future.”
Scottish Labour MSP Neil Bibby said: “This is a callous and foolish statement from the Prime Minister. They really are the same old Tory party.
“It’s clear that the Prime Minister has no understanding at all of the damage done by the closure of the mines.
“To attempt to turn one of the most divisive and destructive periods in British history into a retrospective victory for the environment is deeply offensive to the people and communities who faced considerable hardship and misery.
“But the Prime Minister is set to repeat the same error – rather than jumpstart a green jobs programme to protect livelihoods, he is happy to sit on his hands and leave communities across the UK to experience the same shock in years to come.”
SNP MP for Midlothian Owen Thompson said: “Yet again, Boris Johnson has shown himself to be completely out of touch with Scotland by making unbelievably crass jokes about Margaret Thatcher’s damaging legacy.
“The Thatcher years might have been a spiffing time for Johnson, who was busy partying in the elite Bullingdon Club, but in the real world Thatcher devastated communities across Scotland.
“There are many families across Scottish communities whose lives still bear the scars of Thatcher’s industrial vandalism. It beggars belief that anyone would joke about that.
“Johnson’s trip has been a disaster from start to finish. He has confirmed every worst stereotype of a Westminster Tory Prime Minister toward Scotland: arrogant, out of touch, elitist and patronising.”