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Furious Scottish Tories Warn They Won't Be "Sacrificial Lambs" On Windfall Tax

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking at Tory conference in Aberdeen alongside the party's Scottish leader Douglas Ross (Alamy)

2 min read

A major row is brewing between Downing Street and Tories in Scotland after the Government confirmed on Tuesday that it is extending the windfall tax on energy companies as part of the Budget.

Conservative party figures north of the border are furious over the move, with one source saying the group feel like "sacrificial lambs".

Douglas Ross, the MP for Moray and Tory leader in Scotland, urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to scrap the potential announcement in eleventh hour discussions this morning.

Following Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's House of Commons statement, Ross in a statement said the decision to extend the levy on the profits of energy giants was a "step in the wrong direction" which he would not vote for when it is put before Parliament in the form of legslation.

The Telegraph reported on Monday night that Ross confronted Sunak about the possible extension of the windfall tax at a reception of Tory MPs that day, and that he had briefly been put on resignation watch.

Andrew Bowie, the Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine and a minister in the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, said the move was "deeply disappointing" and added: "I will be working with him [Hunt] to resolve this".

PoliticsHome understands that Bowie was close to quitting his ministerial position on Monday but decided against it after a meeting with Chief Whip Simon Hart.

Hunt confirmed in his Spring Budget on Wednesday that the windfall tax on the profits of energy companies would be extended by a year, raising an estimated £1.5bn. It was one several headline announcements in a Spring Budget which included a two per cent cut to National Insurance and the abolition of non-dom tax brakes. 

Tories north of the border strongly oppose the move as it would affect energy companies drilling for gas and oil in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland, which they regard as being key contributors to the Scottish economy, and believe it would risk deterring investment in the region.

The timing of the row is particularly awkward for No10's relationship with Scottish Tories, with Sunak having just addressed the party's Scottish conference last weekend.

The conference was held in the Scottish city of Aberdeen — which is regarded as the focal point of Scotland's oil and gas industry.

Speaking about his appearance at the conference, the Prime Minister said the Government remained "steadfast in its support of the 200,000 high quality UK jobs that depend on our North Sea oil, gas and energy sector”.

In more awkard timing, In Holyrood today Conservative Members of the Scottish Parliament are leading a debate titled "Backing Scotland's Oil and Gas Industry".

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