A LABOUR government would “lead to the devastation of employment” in the oil and gas industry in north-east Scotland, the First Minister has said.

John Swinney was speaking with media at the Grey Hope Bay Cafe on the outskirts of Aberdeen during the SNP’s campaign trail, joined by Aberdeen South candidate Stephen Flynn.

Swinney was asked if he is confident the SNP will win seats in the upcoming election.

He said: “Well, we’ve got to work very hard to win votes in any election campaign and that’s why I’m here in the north east of Scotland.

“We’ve got a strong presence in the north-east already, but I want us to gain ground.

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“And, of course, we can gain ground by being the party that can defeat the remaining Conservative MPs in the north east of Scotland. We are the challengers in all of those constituencies.

“I completely understand why people want to get rid of the Conservative government, and the best way to do that is to vote for the SNP because we’re the challengers in these constituencies”.

Swinney was scheduled to join SNP candidates for West Aberdeenshire, Kincardine, Aberdeen North, Gordon and Buchan, North and Moray East, Moray West, and Nairn and Strathspey later in the day.

Asked if he is in any way concerned that Labour may scoop some of these seats in the upcoming election, Swinney said the party has a “real problem” in the north-east of Scotland and said their policies would lead to a “devastation of employment” in the oil and gas sector in the area.

He said: “I think the Labour Party has got a real problem in the north-east of Scotland because their policy programme will lead to the devastation of employment in the north-east of Scotland through the proposals that they are bringing forward, which will have a significant and damaging impact on employment within the oil and gas sector.

“And what I want to make sure of is that people understand the dangers of Labour’s plans and the damage that could be done to employment.

“And, you know, we’ve got a commitment to manage to transition to net zero and that’s what the SNP will work with the oil and gas sector to deliver because we’ll need the oil and gas sector to contribute to our economy, but we will also ensure that there is the support that that sector can give, to enable the transition to renewables to be undertaken”.

He added: “There’s a lot of independent commentary that indicates that the plans of the Labour Party and particularly their tax grab that is being perpetuated by the Conservative and Labour parties is having a real damaging effect on investment in the oil and gas sector, which we need to sustain the sector, but we also need to ensure that that sector can play a part in the transition to net zero which is fundamental to the approach that we’ve got to take as a country”.

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Ian Murray, Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary, said: “John Swinney is resorting to increasingly desperate and dishonest attacks on Labour’s plans because the SNP has no record to stand on and no ideas of its own.

“The SNP has missed its green jobs targets, slashed its green jobs funding, given up on climate leadership and turned its back on oil and gas workers – but Labour will make Scotland a clean energy superpower.

“Labour will build on the vast skills and expertise of our energy industry to bring the jobs of the future to Scotland while continuing to support oil and gas for decades to come.

“These transformative plans – driven forward by a publicly-owned GB Energy company based here in Scotland – will deliver 69,000 new green jobs, lower bills and energy security”.