Battle lines drawn: energy security and a looming Lanarkshire by-election

All eyes on Scotland once again this week, with big news on energy and confirmation that there will be a by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West. True North’s Senior Advisor Dr Eilidh Whiteford takes a look at what all of this means.

There have been two significant political developments in Scotland this week, both of which are likely to have lasting repercussions. The first concerns PM Rishi Sunak’s visit to Aberdeen and the UK Government’s announcement of new licences for oil and gas in the North Sea.

This was always going to prove controversial, though if fossil fuels are to remain part of the UK’s energy mix for a number of years to come, meeting that demand through domestic production, which has a significantly lighter carbon footprint than imports, is a  no-brainer, especially when energy security considerations come into play.

This move, and the decision to move ahead at last with support for carbon capture and storage through the St. Fergus-based Acorn Project, should provide some much-needed confidence for the sector.

Together these announcements open up important opportunities for the supply chain, offer greater security to the workforce as the sector transitions to a low carbon future, and should help drive investment in technological innovation, all of which will help accelerate progress towards Net Zero and support the health of the economy in the longer term.  

The second notable development this week is the confirmation that there will be a by-election in Rutherglen following the recall of SNP MP Margaret Ferrier. Ferrier was suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days earlier this year having been convicted of a serious breach of Covid 19 lock down rules, thereby triggering a recall petition. The writ will not be moved before parliament returns from Summer recess, but campaigning is already well underway and Labour go into the contest as clear favourites.

The stakes could not be higher for Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, who need a big win to build momentum ahead of next year’s General Election. They have an open goal in Rutherglen, a seat that has changed hands at each of the last three elections, but if they fail to strike, doubts about Starmer’s ability to connect with voters will be cemented.

The stakes are no less high for the SNP under their new(ish) leader Humza Yousaf, but they will have a mountain to climb. Should they find a way to win, questions over Yousaf’s leadership would dissipate and the SNP will go into the next election with bolstered confidence. But if they lose, the party’s internal fault lines will intensify, and if they lose badly, the FM’s fragile credibility is severely damaged.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford

Senior Advisor

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