SIR Keir Starmer has backed a “hard-edged timetable” for phasing out the oil and gas industry – but has warned that workers must be put at the heart of transition plans.

Plans to form a cooperation agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Greens have been jumped on by the Scottish Conservatives who have claimed it will put thousands of oil and gas jobs at risk.

The Greens want a faster strategy for ending the extraction of fossil fuels.

The Scottish Government is pushing forward a "just transition" strategy – with Nicola Sturgeon insisting she wants to avoid a repeat of 1980s deindustrialisation which left thousands out of work.

Speaking on a visit to Scotland, the Labour leader warned that a fine balance will be needed to allow green industry jobs to replace those connected to fossil fuels.

Sir Keir said: “We absolutely have to protect and look after people’s jobs. You have to have a set of targets and a strategy to hit those targets.

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“What we cannot afford to happen is for those people in Scotland working in high quality jobs in oil and gas to be left without the protection that they deserve. That’s got to be a strategic approach with milestones and delivery - with investment put behind it.”

The Labour leader insisted “we’ve got to try and agree a timetable” for ending the extraction of oil and gas in the North Sea - given UK and Scottish commitments to net zero targets.

But he added “it’s got to be subject to consensus and agreement”.

He added: “We have got to bring communities with us on this otherwise there will be a disconnect between the obligations that we’ve got to fulfil in order to deal with the climate crisis and the communities that are going to be most deeply affected.

“That’s why they deserve the strategic planning.”

Sir Keir was asked about a timetable for ending oil and gas extraction.

He said: “We’ll have to sit down and agree it we got to have a hard-edged timetable.”

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Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, stressed that “the North East has been decimated by the pandemic” adding “it’s been decimated by the reduction in the reduction in the tourism and hospitality industry”.

He added: “It’s got huge challenges around oil and gas.

“We hear a lot about the just transition - we want to deliver a just transition.

“A just transition is only truly just if you are not decimating the entire communities in the process and not losing thousands if not tens of thousands of jobs in the process.

“All of that stuff can be built in Scotland. It’s about how we design, build, commission in Scotland as part of that supply chain to have that renewable energy and create jobs here. That’s how you get buy-in from communities.”

Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross said: “This confirms that Labour have abandoned Aberdeen and the North East.

“They’ve no longer got any MSPs from Aberdeen and they’ve kicked out councillors from the city for working with unionists.

“People across the North East will be appalled to hear that Keir Starmer is happy to throw away their livelihoods by agreeing a hard edged timetable to shut down the North Sea sector.

“Labour’s plans would risk the 100,000 jobs that depend on our vital oil and gas industry.

“This position is potentially even more extreme than an SNP-Green coalition would hold. It’s beyond reckless, especially when jobs and Scotland’s economic recovery from Covid must be our top priority.”