Boris Johnson has sparked fury for ‘crass’ remarks claiming that Margaret Thatcher kick-started green energy in Britain by closing the country’s coal mines.

The Prime Minister suggested it gave the UK a ‘big early start’ in the fight against climate change.

Mr Johnson also provocatively said another referendum on Scottish independence was ‘about as far from the top of my agenda as it is possible to be’.

But his remarks about the coal mines appear to have sparked the most anger.

Speaking to reporters, he hailed existing action to move to greener forms of power, saying when he was a child 70% to 80% of all electricity had been coal-generated.

‘Since then, it’s gone right down to 1%, or sometimes less,’ Mr Johnson said.

As prime minister from 1979-1990 Mrs Thatcher oversaw the closure of nearly 100 mines as part of a bitter dispute with trade unions.

Mr Johnson said: ‘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 big early start and we’re now moving rapidly away from coal altogether.’

Ms Sturgeon wrote on Twitter: ‘Lives & communities in Scotland were utterly devastated by Thatcher’s destruction of the coal industry (which had zero to do with any concern she had for the planet).

‘To treat that as something to laugh about is crass & deeply insensitive to that reality.’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer wrote: ‘Boris Johnson’s shameful praising of Margaret Thatcher’s closure of the coal mines, brushing off the devastating impact on those communities with a laugh, shows just how out of touch he is with working people.’

Labour’s leader in Scotland Anas Sarwar said the remarks were ‘just another example of why the Tories are a disaster and the biggest threat to the union’.

The party’s energy spokeswoman at Holyrood, Monica Lennon, criticised the PM for ‘laughing about Thatcher’s pit closures that decimated our mining communities’.

Fellow Labour MSP Neil Bibby said: ‘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.’

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.’

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