Douglas Ross has warned the Chancellor not to extend the windfall tax on oil and gas firms, saying it would be “an unacceptable blow” to industry and workers.

The Scottish Tory leader said he had spoken to Jeremy Hunt, the Prime Minister and Energy Minster Claire Coutinho about Wednesday’s Budget a number of times over the weekend.

He said he would continue “strenuously” to make the case against maintaining levy at a meeting on Monday.

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Reports last week suggested the Chancellor is looking at the measure as a means of generating enough fiscal headroom to cut personal taxes.

Rishi Sunak first announced the windfall tax - set at 65% - back in May 2022 after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to a surge in wholesale and retail energy prices.

He always insisted it would be temporary and was due to end next year.

However, after Liz Truss’s mini-budget crashed the economy, Mr Hunt increased the rate to 75% and extended it for a further two years to 31 March 2028.

Speaking to journalists after his speech to the Scottish Tory conference, Mr Ross was asked about a possible extension. 

“Well, I don't support that,” he said. “When it was introduced, it was introduced with the support of some big businesses within that sector. 

“Things have moved on a lot since then. And what I've heard from Offshore Energy UK, indeed even just last night at their reception here at a conference, it's about confidence and confidence going forward.

“And that would be an unacceptable blow to the confidence and the confidence of the jobs and the workers here [in the North East] and I have and will continue to make that most strenuously to the chancellor in the UK Government.”

Last month, Labour announced plans for a “proper” windfall tax, saying they would raise the rate to 78% and keep it in place until 2029.

That led to them being branded “traitors” by the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce. 

With the Tories hopeful of retaining their seats in the North East, and with the party hopeful they can even gain from the SNP in Aberdeenshire, any extension of the levy and similar reaction from industry leaders could cause them real damage. 

The Herald:

During his speech, Mr Ross described Aberdeen as “Scotland’s most important city.”

He told delegates: “For decades this city and the region that surrounds it has been – and continues to be – Europe’s oil and gas capital, the centre of an industry that supports over 100,000 Scottish jobs and contributed almost a tenth of the funding for our public services last year.

“Yet also has an amazing opportunity to lead the world in the development of renewable energy.”

He said the future was “being put at risk by an anti-Aberdeen, anti-North East alliance – a partnership between Labour and the SNP determined to close down Scotland’s oil and gas sector.”

“Keir Starmer, Anas Sarwar and Humza Yousaf are all lining up together to tell companies not to invest here, not to create jobs, not to stay in Aberdeen.”

“Neither party wants this city to succeed, to continue to be at the heart of Scotland’s economy,” he added. “Both would rather that jobs and emissions are outsourced to other countries – like Putin’s Russia.

“It’s beyond clear that there is only one party that is standing up for the jobs of oil and gas workers, standing up for Scotland’s economy, standing up for a practical transition to Net Zero delivered here in Aberdeen.”

READ MORE: MP Lisa Cameron accuses SNP bosses of turning blind eye to threats

The Scottish Tories face a difficult election.  New YouGov polling for the Scottish Election Study, unveiled on Saturday morning, suggests they could be on course to lose as many as 58% of their voters in Scotland from 2019 and 2021 at the next election, up from 42% in October.

Mr Ross was bullish.  “I don't recognise that in any way with what I'm picking up on the doorstep,” he said. “We are going to have a very good general election here in Scotland.”

"I think we can hold the seats that we currently have and I think we can make gains, and those gains will be at the expense of the SNP, and I think we will have a good result in many seats right across the country," he added.

There were a handful of policy promises during the address to the party faithful. Mr Ross said the Tories would go into the vote with a vow to hire 1,000 extra police officers, as well as recruit more GPs.

He also pledged to improve roads – saying his party would “deliver on the SNP’s broken promises” to upgrade key routes across the country.

On education, he added that the Tories are looking at how to “reduce class sizes, reinforce discipline in our schools and restore our traditional exam system”.

He said the party would also pledge to cut taxes for Scottish taxpayers.

During the speech, he appealed to Better Together voters to “give ‘Useless’ his P45 and put his nationalist government on notice.”

He said a good result for the SNP would “only strengthen [Yousaf’s] position and embolden his party to campaign more on independence. And a vote for any other party will just be a waste.”

“Use us as your vehicle to make the SNP pay for years of distraction and neglect,” he added.  Mr Ross claimed No voters had “got complacent” after the 2014 indyref.

“A decade on from that referendum, we cannot make the same mistake,” he told the party faithful. “ 

The Scottish Tory leader insisted that the vote was a “battle for the soul of Scotland”.