North Sea Oil rig. Photo: Gary Bembridge/CC
North Sea Oil rig. Photo: Gary Bembridge/CC

Lucas Grant, Aberdeen Socialist Party Scotland

Rishi Sunak’s government has approved 100 new licences for oil and gas exploration, primarily within the fuel-rich North Sea. Environmental groups and opposition parties have been quick to criticise such a move, with the Green Party calling it “utterly reckless” and as leaving a “long and destructive legacy”. Sunak’s multimillion-pound weekend home in Yorkshire was targeted by Greenpeace in protest, draping black fabric over it.

The Tories have justified these moves in energy strategy as an attempt to cease reliance upon “aggressors like Putin for our energy”. Additionally however, Sunak holds that this move is still accounted for in the UK’s net-zero energy strategy. In reality this move is a further invitation for international oil and gas to reap the benefits of the UK’s natural resources and beneficial tax rates. Undoubtedly many in government will also benefit from these contracts either directly or indirectly.

Previously, prior to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow 2021, the Conservatives received over £400,000 through official channels just before the approval of North Sea well licences then. As in any situation of this character, large donations from benefiting parties often “expedite” the decision making of capitalist governments.

The reality of energy supply and the inextricably linked environmental crisis we find ourselves in is that capitalism cannot manage these problems effectively. A system that places greed and profit over the welfare of human life is not capable of this.

Alternative means of energy will only become dominant over fossil fuels when it truly becomes more profitable to do so, regardless of the impact on the environment. For example, BP invested eleven times more into oil and gas than low-carbon energy in the last quarter.

A move like this under capitalism, as we have seen with other environmental policies, workers and working class communities as a whole are only an afterthought. The Scottish government’s introduction of Low Emission Zones with a two-year grace period will undoubtedly impact the ability of working-class families to access city centres for work or any other reason.

A move to alternative energy will likely result in large numbers of layoffs for energy workers despite possessing skills that could be transferred with additional training. Allowing the international billionaire class to control this industry will always leave workers secondary to profit.

The ‘This is Rigged’ protest group have taken direct action not just against oil and gas companies but also against the SNP-Green government’s impotence on the question of the new licences. They rightly call for a workers-led transition to renewables.

Socialist Party Scotland and Young Socialists are open to discussing with This is Rigged about the most effective protest methods, including linking up with mass trade union action. And what programme can win the support of the wider working class on climate action.

Calling for a socialist alternative to capitalism is all the more essential given these developments. The corrupt profit-governed chaos of the capitalist system needs to be thrown out in its entirety and replaced by a socialist economy based upon the collective management of the economy by the working class.

Socialist Party Scotland calls for a workers-led socialist transition, democratically discussed and controlled by elected committees of workers in affected industries, that guarantees better jobs and conditions in renewable energy.

Such a transition to renewable forms of energy protecting jobs and workers is only achievable through the nationalisation of the major energy companies.

Mobilising trade unions and workers into the creation of a new mass workers’ party with a socialist programme is essential to bring about this and the socialist transformation of the economy.