THE Scottish Conservatives will attempt to expose Labour splits over the future of oil and gas exploration in the North Sea this week, by calling a Holyrood vote on Keir Starmer’s plans for a ban on all new licenses. 

The Tories will use their opposition day debate on Wednesday to table a motion stating that the oil and gas industry will "inevitably... form part of our energy mix for years to come.”

It comes as Gary Smith, the General Secretary of the GMB warned that workers in the North East of Scotland would be “very worried” about Labour’s “naive” position.

READ MORE: Keir Starmer oil and gas ban plan blasted by sector and unions

Sir Keir Starmer is set to announce the plan later this month when he outlines his “national mission” to cut the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels. 

Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Mr Smith said this was shortsighted: “There is a lot of oil and gas in the North Sea and the alternatives facing the country are that we either produce our own oil and gas – take responsibility for our carbon emissions – or we are going to import more oil and gas.

“I think workers in the petrochemical industry… are going to be very worried about what Labour are saying and I think it is time for Labour to focus on the right thing rather than what they think is the popular thing.”

He said that the sector had been promised “tens of thousands of jobs” in renewable energy “time and time again” but that they “simply have not emerged”, adding: “That has been the sorry state of the renewables industry around the country.”

Mr Smith said there was a “lack of intellectual rigour” behind the plans.

“I think Labour have been naive,” he added. 

“They’re just focusing on what they think is popular rather than doing the proper thinking to understand what is right for the country,” he added.

READ MORE: Warning SNP ministers 'back-sliding' over oil and gas position

Earlier this week, it emerged that there were splits in Scottish Labour group over the plan. 

Pauline McNeill and Michael Marra — both GMB members — reportedly raised concerns. 

A party insider told the Daily Record: “We can’t afford to be out of touch with communities in the North East of Scotland, or playing reckless games with 70,000 jobs.

“Until there is a credible pathway to net zero, we will rely on current levels of production for decades to come. That’s the reality Keir Starmer and Ed Miliband must understand if they are serious about Scotland.”

Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds defended the proposals. He told BBC One’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: “We will see in the North Sea existing oil and gas fields continue to produce well up until 2050 for the 28,000 directly employed people in that sector, they’ll continue to work in that sector.

“But the big opportunity comes from the transition and we don’t think further new oil and gas fields are the answer.

"First of all because they won’t do anything for bills, they won’t do anything for our energy security, they cost a lot of public subsidy, they clearly will be a climate disaster, but also there are better alternatives available.”

Mr Reynolds said there is a need to be “embracing that change”, which includes renewables and green steel, adding: “The number of jobs that will be created by that is far in excess of the jobs currently there.”

In their draft energy strategy, published in January, the SNP-Green Scottish Government said there “should be a presumption against new exploration for oil and gas” but stopped short of calling for an end to new exploration. 

READ MORE: Workers in North East 'very worried' by Labour oil and gas ban

Tory Shadow cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport, Liam Kerr described the positions adopted by Labour and the SNP as “unevidenced, ignorant dogma which would throw the communities of North East Scotland under a bus.”

He added: “The stance of Labour and the SNP hinges, for any semblance of credibility, on the nation’s energy needs being able to be met by renewables alone. But, as anyone with an ounce of knowledge about the sector knows, we’re nowhere near that point yet.

“Banning domestic extraction now would simply mean us having to import fossil fuels from abroad, increasing our carbon footprint in the process and shamefully offshoring our climate responsibilities.”