Nuclear power should be “part of the mix” on energy, Anas Sarwar has said as he relaunched his party’s “Green Labour” campaign.
The Scottish Labour leader set out the party’s climate policies on Friday, including a pledge to ensure every Scottish home has an energy efficiency rating of C or higher by 2030.
He also called for a statutory Just Transition Commission to be established to help workers move out of the oil and gas industry.
He visited the Shettleston Community Growing Project in Glasgow, taking an electric bus to reach the allotment site.
Speaking to journalists before the visit, he said his party would push the Scottish and UK governments to go “further and faster” in delivering climate promises.
He said: “We want to talk about a jobs-first transition, because there’s no such thing as a just transition that sacrifices entire communities and makes tens of thousands of people unemployed.”
Asked about nuclear power, he said: “I think we have to be honest about future opportunities and I think nuclear power has to be part of the mix.
“I’m not saying nuclear power has to be the priority, or the lead.
“But it has to be part of the mix to have a diverse energy supply.
“The idea that we can shut down industries, and instead import energy – it’s not good for security, it’s not good for jobs and it’s not good for affordability.”
Saying the public would not welcome increased energy bills to pay for the transition, he said: “I want to take the public with us, I don’t want to sacrifice jobs, and I think that means having a credible energy policy.”
Mr Sarwar was asked about the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, a group of countries and regions who seek to phase out fossil fuels, which the Scottish Government is considering joining.
He said: “What we’re really good at in Scotland is signing up to big, bold pledges a long way down the road but not doing the work in the here and now.
“Of course we want to transition away from the oil and gas industry, but signing up to a statement is in itself not enough.
“So yes, that shows some of the thinking, but how we’re doing the work right now making the investment right now to create those jobs is the more important part and I don’t think the Scottish and UK governments are taking that seriously yet.”
Earlier this week, a Scottish Labour amendment in a Scottish Parliament debate proposed upgrading a number of roads across Scotland.
Asked if this would lead to higher demand for car travel, Mr Sarwar said road safety is still “really, really important” and many roads are not fit for purpose.
He said: “The idea we can pretend we don’t need roads any more – or safe roads any more – is just not credible and I don’t think the public would believe it.”
Jackie Dunbar, the net zero, energy and transport committee member, said: “The SNP is absolutely clear in our opposition to the building of new nuclear power plants in Scotland.
“The people of Scotland have consistently voted for a Government that does not support the creation of new, nuclear power stations, so why should Scottish taxpayers’ find themselves paying for Westminster’s nuclear obsession?
“Instead of tying Scottish taxpayers’ into contracts worth billions of pounds, the UK government must U-turn on its decision not to fast track the Scottish CCS cluster.
“It is vital that they also provide a ringfenced pot of money for wave and tidal projects in the next energy auction. This decision could provide a stable alternative to nuclear energy and keep Scotland at the forefront of renewable energy.”