Michael Gove has warned Nicola Sturgeon to keep the Scottish Greens “at arm’s length” after arguing that her plans for a formal cooperation deal with them would further ravage the economy as it recovers from the pandemic.
The Cabinet Office minister said the Greens were opposed to economic growth and investment and argued that Ms Sturgeon’s proposed agreement threatened the prosperity of the North Sea oil and gas industry.
Speaking on a visit to his hometown of Aberdeen, he said he did not believe an SNP-Green pact “would be good for the North East or good for jobs”.
Ms Sturgeon opened talks with the pro-independence Greens after the SNP fell one seat short of a majority in last month’s Holyrood election.
John Swinney, the deputy first minister, announced last week that talks would continue over the summer and cover a variety of subjects including a second independence referendum and tackling climate change.
It is thought the agreement would initially involve “formal processes of consultation” between the two parties but could lead in the longer term to Green ministers being appointed in the Scottish government.
Ms Sturgeon has promised to work with them on plans that were outside the SNP’s “comfort zones”, raising the prospect of her adopting a series of radical Green policies on hiking taxes, banning country sports and hitting North Sea oil and gas.
Among their manifesto pledges for a “just transition” away from fossil fuels were a ban on issuing new licences for oil and gas exploration and development, revoking undeveloped licences and ending subsidies and tax breaks for the North Sea.
Although these are matters reserved to the UK Government, the party also urged Ms Sturgeon’s administration to challenge “backdoor funding” to the sector via other taxpayer-funded means.
Speaking on a visit to the Net Zero Technology Centre in Aberdeen, Mr Gove said: “We know that if we’re going to succeed in the future, we’re going to have the energy mix that we need and the economic growth that we need, that oil and gas is going to be part of that mix for the future.
“The Greens are anti-oil and gas, anti-growth, anti-jobs, anti-investment, anti-the North East, anti-Aberdeen. So I hope that the SNP keep them at arm’s length because I do not believe that a formal SNP-Green compact would be good for the North East or good for jobs.”
Asked about the prospect of a second independence referendum, he said: “I think the case for the Union has been reinforced by the need for us all to recognise the scale of Covid recovery ahead of this.”
But Jackie Dunbar, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Donside, said: “You couldn’t mark Michael Gove’s brass neck with an oil rig flare. Successive Tory governments have paid scant regard to the needs of the North East beyond milking every penny it could squeeze out of Scotland’s oil.”
Maggie Chapman, a Green MSP, said: “The Scottish Greens have shown how we can tackle the climate emergency by delivering a fair transition that supports oil and gas workers to move into the clean industries of the future and leaves no one behind.
“I was elected by the people of the North East to deliver that transition just last month and if I have to put Michael Gove’s nose out of joint to do so then so be it.”