SIR Keir Starmer will announce plans to block all new North Sea oil and gas developments as part of a radical blueprint to make Britain a “clean energy superpower” and create tens of thousands of renewable jobs north of the border, it is being reported.

The Labour leader is expected to set out his net zero energy policy when he launches his latest “national mission” in Scotland next month. It will include a pledge to ban all new North Sea oil and gas licences, signalling a seismic shift in decades of UK energy policy, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

The paper reported it will be one of Mr Starmer’s five key pledges to the electorate and opens up a dividing line with the Conservative Party and the SNP, as next year’s general election approaches.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has backed further oil and gas exploration in the country’s energy security strategy, while the SNP supports a transition away from oil and gas but has stopped short of calling for a halt to North Sea oil and gas licences.

The move will be seen as an attempt by the Labour leader, who last week visited Scotland, to attract votes away from the SNP, which has been under pressure since Nicola Sturgeon stepped down and the police investigation into SNP finances escalated.

READ MORE: New YouGov MRP poll predicts SNP wipe out in Glasgow

Labour wants to claim back seats lost in Scotland in the aftermath of the 2014 independence referendum and polls suggest the party is on course of making significant gains in Glasgow and the central belt.

The SNP’s energy strategy, launched by former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in January, proposes the “fastest possible” move away from oil and gas.

First Minister Humza Yousaf said this month that there was a “moral imperative” to move away from fossil fuels — but stopped short of calling for a halt to the drillling of the Rosebank oil field, which has just been licensed by the UK authorities.

Mr Starmer is also expected to announce that a Labour government would only borrow to invest in green enterprises, according to the same newspaper report.

READ MORE: Scotland will be £6bn poorer under SNP-Green North Sea energy strategy

The party expects the plan to create up to half a million jobs in the renewables industry, including at least 50,000 in Scotland. The move is expected to offset developments in the dwindling North Sea oil and gas fields that directly employ more than 20,000 workers and provide an estimated further 200,000 jobs onshore.

Under the “green prosperity” plan, Labour is aiming to double onshore wind, triple solar and more than quadruple offshore wind power. The party has committed to creating a publicly owned renewable energy company whose aim is to achieve a zero-carbon power system by 2030.

But Mr Starmer’s decision to halt new North Sea oil and gas developments is not expected to come without challenges amid fears it could force the UK to place more reliance on energy imported from countries such as Russia, Saudi Arabia and Norway.

Currently, the UK meets about 45 per cent of its gas needs from domestic energy generation, reducing its dependence on overseas vendors with higher emissions. Despite the continued rise in renewables, however, 85 per cent of British homes still rely on gas boilers for heat and 42 per cent of the UK’s electricity comes from gas.

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A Labour source said: “We are against the granting of new licences for oil and gas in the North Sea. They will do nothing to cut bills as the Tories have acknowledged. They undermine our energy security, and would drive a coach and horse through our climate targets. But Labour would continue to use existing oil and gas wells over the coming decades and manage them sustainably as we transform the UK into a clean energy superpower.”

The Labour source added: “We’ll set out our fiscal plans in full at the election, showing how we will invest in jobs and industries of the future while meeting our fiscal rules.”

READ MORE: SNP MSP Fergus Ewing demands 'maximum' North Sea gas production

In its draft energy strategy, published in January, the SNP proposed making the “fastest possible” transition away from oil and gas production” and said it had a “presumption against new exploration for oil and gas”. Energy licences are under Westminster’s control.

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has just held a new licensing round for oil and gas exploration projects which attracted more than 100 bids. Two significant oil fields — Cambo and Jackdaw — have been given licences.

This is despite calls from the International Energy Agency for no more fossil fuel projects to keep net zero targets in check, and the emergence of a new alliance of countries at the Cop26 climate change conference in Glasgow in 2021 committed to banning domestic oil and gas drilling.

Responding to Labour policy move, Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative shadow secretary for net zero, energy and transport, said: “This is an extraordinary and reckless intervention from Keir Starmer who stands four-square beside the SNP and Greens to spout the sort of economic and environmental ignorance that shows why Labour is so unfit for government.

“It’s clear he is willing to throw tens of thousands of jobs under the bus in favour of superficial soundbites that take no account of UK energy security, the impact on consumers in a cost of living crisis and would lead to greater reliance on imported energy with far worse emissions and environmental impacts than domestically sourced.

“Keir Starmer also completely ignores that we cannot achieve a just transition without the investment, expertise and entrepreneurialism of North Sea businesses.

“The oil and gas industry’s immense resources and skilled workforce are an integral part of any transition and it is just this sort of ill-informed policy from Labour that jeopardises our net zero future.

“While Labour, as well as the SNP-Green Scottish Government trot out vacuous rhetoric, the Scottish Conservatives will get on with a serious energy strategy and continue to stand up for thousands of skilled workers, the UK economy, our energy security and the environment.”

Last week Graham Stuart, the Tory minister for climate and net zero, said the government was committed to new oil and gas licences in the North Sea but “would never” approve anything incompatible with net zero greenhouse gas emissions and global warming limited to 1.5C.

Environmental protesters demonstrated against the development of the Rosebank oil and gas field.

Scientists and campaigners are worried that the government will grant permission for the Norwegian company Equinor to develop the Rosebank oil and gas field in the North Atlantic, which would produce 500 million barrels of oil if it goes ahead.

Analysis by the campaign group Uplift has shown that the emissions simply from producing oil from the field would be enough to exceed the entire share of the UK’s carbon budget earmarked for oil and gas production from 2028.

Without new licences being approved, experts predict that domestic oil and gas production could fall by as much as 15 per cent per year by the turn of the decade. If so, output in ten years would be about 80 per cent lower than it is now.

Overall, gas production has seen a fall of about 7 per cent over the past five years and it would have been much steeper without investments in new fields. Oil production fell by 7 per cent last year, and is now 26 per cent lower than in 2018.

Since exploration began, 46.4 billion barrels of oil and gas have been extracted from the UK continental shelf, the NSTA says.

According to the latest estimates, there were 4 billion barrels of “proven and probable” oil and gas remaining at the end of 2021. As a country, the UK uses about one billion barrels a year, though much of the North Sea output is exported for use in plastics and other manufacturing. A further 6.1 billion barrels are thought to remain in licensed fields waiting for full approval, proposed new developments and what the authority calls “marginal discoveries”.

These reserves are becoming harder and more expensive to extract, with production dropping each year. When oil and gas prices soared last year, interest in untapped reserves from big oil companies spiked, but with prices now back down to levels not seen since November 2021, interest is waning again.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure are already enough to heat the world beyond 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Breaching this target is likely to lead to irreversible environmental damage.

But the Climate Change Committee, which advises the government, is less clear about the impact of continuing to pursue oil reserves in the North Sea. In advice last year, it said there were “emissions advantages” to producing fossil fuels domestically, rather than importing supplies from abroad, although it said it was not clear if domestic production would displace imports because so much is sent overseas. “The evidence on new UK oil and gas production is therefore not clear-cut,” it concluded.

Dave Whitehouse, chief executive of Offshore Energies UK, told the Sunday Times: “People wouldn’t forgive anyone who shut down Britain’s oil and gas industry and replaced it with imports . . . Labour’s approach risks sending the wrong signals.

“By investing in homegrown production, we avoid costlier, less secure, and higher carbon footprint imports while supporting the infrastructure we need to make cleaner, more affordable energy in the UK. We urge Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves [the shadow chancellor] to fulfil their promise to listen to industry.”

Lord Frost, the former Brexit secretary, last week voiced significant concerns about the government’s chosen path towards achieving net zero emissions. He said: “Get shale gas extraction going, commit long-term to the North Sea, put in place proper storage — and build some new gas power stations.”