Boris Johnson has been slammed after praising Margaret Thatcher for giving the UK a "big early start" in the transition away from coal by closing so many mines.

The Prime Minister laughed as he made the comment to journalists after he was asked about setting a deadline for the end of oil and gas exploration. 

Mr Johnson held a virtual Q&A with the media as he visited the Moray East Offshore Wind Farm development on the final day of his trip to Scotland yesterday.

Pushed on a deadline for the end of oil and gas exploration, he said: "You look at what we've done already. We've transitioned away from coal in my lifetime.

"Thanks to Margaret Thatcher who closed so many coal mines across the country, we had a big early start and we're now moving rapidly away from coal altogether."

Mr Johnson laughed as he made the comment, and added: “I thought that would get you going.”

His comments have been met with anger and ridicule. 

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First Minister Mark Drakeford told BBC Radio 4: “I’m afraid that those remarks are both crass and offensive.

“The damage done to Welsh coal mining areas 30 years ago was incalculable and here we are 30 years later the Tories are still celebrating what they did.”

Former Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "30,000 men lost their jobs in Wales alone.

"Communities were devastated. Family members were turned against each other.

"A Tory government did nothing to help them. Mining runs deep in my family. This comment belittles all those who suffered between 1984-5."

"And just to be clear. It was this conflict and the way in which the miners, some of whom actually fought in the Second World War, were treated that brought me into politics."

There were 170 working collieries in Britain in 1984, employing more than 190,000 people. By 2015, all had closed.

In Wales, there were over 20,000 miners employed in Welsh collieries in Wales in 1984. By the end of that decade there were just 3,700.

Tower Colliery, the last deep mine in Wales, ceased production in 2008.

Since 2001, coal imports into the UK have been higher than domestic production.

Responding to the Prime Minister's comments, former Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said: "No, Thatcher didn’t close the pits because she wanted to reduce carbon emissions.

"She did it to kill an industry, a powerful trade union and she ended up dealing a severe blow to our strong communities. It still hurts.

"Ditch the crap jokes. No one’s laughing."

With the comments made in a visit to Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon responded by saying : "Lives and communities in Scotland were utterly devastated by Thatcher’s destruction of the coal industry (which had zero to do with any concern she had for the planet).

"To treat that as something to laugh about is crass & deeply insensitive to that reality."

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