Government should ‘nurse’ businesses through energy crisis – Blackford

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SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has called for extra support for businesses (Isabel Infantes/PA) (PA Archive)
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has called for extra support for businesses (Isabel Infantes/PA) (PA Archive)

The UK Government needs to “nurse” businesses through the energy crisis by providing support, the SNP’s Westminster leader has said.

Ian Blackford compared comments made by UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng playing down the possibility of extra help for business to Margaret Thatcher.

The SNP MP warned that not providing support for firms as wholesale energy prices rise will affect everyone.

Speaking on BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show, Mr Blackford said: “Government has to recognise it has a responsibility to nurse businesses through this, to provide short-term support.

We've got to make sure that companies have got the assistance they need in the short term while we get through this

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford

Watch: Minister denies Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng lied about potential further support for firms amid energy crisis

“If we end up in a situation, for example, where steel production stops in west central Scotland that helps nobody.

“So we’ve got to make sure that companies have got the assistance they need in the short term while we get through this.

“If not, we’re all going to pay a price because we’re going to end up with higher unemployment, we’re going to end up with supply constraints; we’re ending up in a situation, by the way – and the real worry I have out of this – is that inflation is now increasing.

“The Bank of England and the Government have been slow to react to this; we’re now seeing wage inflation – in fact the Prime Minister is encouraging wage inflation. That runs the risk that we end up with higher inflation for longer and the consequences of all of that.

“It is a serious problem.”

Earlier, Mr Kwarteng, asked on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show if he is going to give extra help to energy-intensive industries, like steel, said: “We’re looking to find a solution.”

Told that that sounds like a yes, the minister replied: “No, that doesn’t sound like yes at all. We already have existing support and we’re looking to see if that’s sufficient to get us through this situation.”

He added: “I’ve been very clear we’re not going to bail out failing energy suppliers.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng was questioned on the energy crisis (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng was questioned on the energy crisis (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

On being informed of the Business Secretary’s position, Mr Blackford told The Sunday Show: “This is like Thatcher all over again, isn’t it?”

Asked if the Scottish Government will provide support for businesses if the UK Government does not, the SNP MP said energy policy is reserved to Westminster but the Scottish Government will do all it can.

Questioned whether the Cambo oil and gas field off Shetland should be developed, Mr Blackford did not answer directly but said the Scottish Government has taken the correct decision in asking for the licensing decision to be reassessed.

He added: “Let’s drive down demand so we don’t need fossil fuels. Until we get to that point, it would make more sense for us to use our domestic resource rather than importing.”

Watch: Kwasi Kwarteng did not ‘tell porkies’ about industry support, says minister

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