Labour has promised a £100 billion investment blitz for Scotland as part of what Jeremy Corbyn claimed was the party’s “most radical manifesto in a generation”.
The Labour leader said his party’s plans would spark a Scottish manufacturing boom to fuel a Green Industrial Revolution, saying the offshore wind turbines that would deliver a carbon neutral energy grid by 2040 “should be built in Scotland”.
At the heart of Jeremy Corbyn's offer for Scotland is the promise of 100bn of investment for over ten years. Pictures: PA
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But there was controversy over a plan to hit the oil and gas sector with a one-off £11bn windfall tax, which critics claimed would threaten 100,000 jobs and put at risk Aberdeen’s recovery after years of low oil prices.
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Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell defended the policy, saying the revenue would be reinvested in greening the economy and retraining the UK’s 37,000 oil and gas workers.
Unveiling the party’s manifesto at Birmingham City University, Mr Corbyn took on his critics directly, saying he welcomed the opposition of billionaires and multinational corporations to his plans to nationalise rail, energy, postal, water and broadband internet services, and raise taxes on corporations and higher earners.
£80bn in new taxes
The Labour leader said his partys plans would spark a Scottish manufacturing boom. Picture: PA
The Labour leader said the manifesto, which proposes £135bn of new spending - twice the level of the party’s 2017 plans - and more than £80bn in new taxes was “full of popular policies that the political establishment has blocked for a generation”.
Mr Corbyn pledged that 95 per cent of workers would see no change in their income tax bill, with increases restricted to those earning more than £80,000 per year.
“You can have this plan for real change, because you don’t need money to buy it: you just need a vote,” he told cheering activists and students watching from balconies overhead.
At the heart of Labour’s offer for Scotland is the promise of £100bn of investment over ten years, through direct spending and Barnett Formula windfalls.
Oil and gas companies will have their contribution to the proposed windfall tax calculated based on their contribution to global warming. The estimated £11bn price tag for the sector is ten times bigger than the Treasury’s estimate of total tax revenue from the offshore activity this year.
Scotland Office minister Colin Clark, the Conservative candidate for Gordon in the northeast, called on local SNP candidates to disown the proposal and pledge not to support a minority Labour government.
“It seems clear the Labour leader is prepared to sacrifice jobs north of the border,” Mr Clark said.
“The truth is that a series of measures implemented by Conservative governments have made the UK Continental Shelf one of the most competitive basins in the world.
“However, the recovery from the recent downturn is now at real risk.”
Mr Corbyn said it “isn’t fair to heap the cost of the climate emergency onto the nurse, the builder or the energy worker,” arguing that “the big oil and gas corporations that profit from heating up our planet will shoulder the burden and pay their fair share”.
And Mr McDonnell defended the policy, saying it was “not a tax on Aberdeen but a tax for Aberdeen”.
“All that money will go on investing in the jobs that people need in the just transition from fossil fuels to renewables,” he said.
'Biggest investment in Scotland in generations'
The shadow Chancellor said the manifesto “will be the biggest investment Scotland has seen in generations, £100 billion and more, all for the Scottish people to make sure their economy will thrive.”
Mr Corbyn told supporters in Birmingham that as much as five per cent of the UK’s electricity needs could be met by windfarms off the west coast of Scotland alone.
“Scotland has an incredible tradition of manufacturing and a high skills base,” the Labour leader said. “But it hasn’t had the investment it needs and company after company has been put under threat.”
Challenged over the fact that many of the contracts to build wind farms off the British coast have been filled by engineering firms overseas, with Scottish companies like Fife-based Bi-fab going bust in recent years, Mr Corbyn said a Labour government would seek to bring that work back to the UK.
“I was at a rally in support of Bi-fab workers in Fife, a company that could make the wind farms Scotland needs.
“The Bi-fab workers get a bit annoyed when they see the ships coming from Indonesia bringing the parts for windfarms that will be erected off the coast of Scotland.
“These are the strategic assets and they should be made in Scotland, made in the rest of the UK.”
The Labour manifesto commits the party to the £200bn renewal of the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent, despite Scottish Labour’s opposition to the nuclear weapons system based on the Clyde.
It also confirms Labour’s controversial stance on a second Scottish independence referendum, warning that breaking away from the UK would be “economically devastating”, but only ruling out indyref2 “in the early years of a Labour government”.
In Birmingham, Mr Corbyn said it was “absolutely not our priority to have yet another independence referendum in Scotland.
“Our priority is dealing with the levels of poverty and inequality.”