A lot of frack and nonsense
There was a heavy environmental focus as the dust settled from Alex Salmond’s farewell of sorts to party conference.
As the crowds headed for the exit, motions on tougher measures to combat raptor persecution, a better deal for farmers and Scotland’s commitment to clean and green energy were packed into the afternoon session.
But the most fervent comments were saved for a particularly hot topic – fracking.
In the week before, a press release was issued about a motion tabled to the conference proposing a moratorium on fracking – reflecting calls from elsewhere, including an unsuccessful motion put forward by the Scottish Greens in parliament earlier this year.
However, while shale gas was included as part of a wider energy motion which included praise for ambition on renewables, particularly marine energy, it was watered down.
Instead of an all out ban, the motion which was passed urged “caution” over allowing any onshore unconventional gas testing, exploration and extraction in Scotland.
The party, and the government, have been tying themselves in knots over how to deal with fracking, not wishing to completely ban it – as they have done on new nuclear power stations – but realising that there is a significant amount of support for taking further action against it.
Senior figures within the SNP were pleased the energy motion has passed as they feel it allows the party to show its opposition without tying them in to an all out ban.
But many in the party were nonetheless unequivocal in their opposition.
Mike Weir, the SNP’s energy spokesman in Westminster, said fracking quite simply was not needed with the other energy resources already we already have – and criticised George Osborne for suggesting shale gas revenues could be used to set up “something that sounds a lot like a sovereign wealth fund” which had previously been ruled out for North Sea oil and gas.
Other speakers left no doubt that they wanted to see tougher steps taken to prevent the practice ever happening in Scotland.
With planning measures already strengthened and environmental measures also in place before any activity takes place, it is difficult to see what more the a policy to exercise “caution” over fracking will bring, other than perhaps drawing a line in the sand.
The trouble is with lines in the sand though, they can often all to easily be stepped over.