SNP rejects suggestions it misled parliament on fracking

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 9 May 2018 in News

An SNP spokesperson said: "Why the Tories want to frack under people's homes – despite the strength of public opposition – is anyone's guess"

The SNP has rejected suggestions it misled parliament on fracking after a government lawyer seemed to contradict claims from senior members of the party that the technique is banned in Scotland.

With the Scottish Government facing a legal challenge from Ineos over its decision to block fracking from taking place north of the border, Scottish Government advocate James Mure QC yesterday told the Court of Session: “The concept of an effective ban is a gloss. It is the language of a press statement. What they have done is to announce a preferred position on the issue.”

But opposition parties questioned the statement, after senior members of the SNP repeatedly claimed that fracking has been banned, with the Scottish Conservatives pointing to a statement from Nicola Sturgeon in October saying: “fracking is being banned in Scotland – end of story.”

Meanwhile Scottish Labour’s Environment and Climate Change spokesperson Claudia Beamish called for an explanation, saying: “This sums up perfectly the SNP government's attitude - spin before substance.”

But the SNP rejected Tory demands for the party to explain to parliament “why these seemingly misleading statements were made”.

An SNP spokesperson said: “These claims defy all logic. If the Tories are right – and they’re not – why has Ineos taken its case against a ban to the Court of Session?

“There is no fracking in Scotland and there can be no fracking in Scotland. That’s because the SNP has taken decisive action, which builds on our existing moratorium.

“And let’s not forget: the Scottish Government’s plans won the support of the Scottish Parliament.

"The SNP has taken a cautious, evidence-led approach and is implementing a ban in line with the views of the vast majority of Scottish people, who cited concerns for the environment, their communities, and the impact on public health.

"Why the Tories want to frack under people's homes – despite the strength of public opposition – is anyone's guess."

Petrochemical company Ineos demanded a judicial review after Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse announced the Scottish Government’s moratorium on fracking would be continued indefinitely in October.

More than 60,000 people responded to the Scottish Government’s four month consultation on fracking, with 99 per cent expressing opposition to the technique.

It was described at the time as an “effective ban”, which Ineos, alongside another firm Reach, argues is unlawful.

The Scottish Government’s legal representation yesterday stated that the policy position would not be finalised until October this year, after an environmental and strategic assessment.

But while the SNP, Scottish Labour and the Scottish Greens all opposed the introduction of the technique, a form of unconventional gas extraction, Wheelhouse came under fire from opposition parties after stating that ministers planned to block fracking through planning powers, rather than through a legal ban.

Labour MSP Claudia Beamish, who introduced a private members bill to ban fracking, warned that by stopping short of a legal ban then any opposition could be overturned at a later date.

Scottish Conservative energy spokesman Alexander Burnett said: “This is now beyond humiliating for the SNP. It would be funny were it not so serious.

“People will be stunned that a QC representing the SNP government in court could so spectacularly contradict the claims and parliamentary statements of Nicola Sturgeon and Paul Wheelhouse.

“Both should explain to parliament as a matter of urgency why these seemingly misleading statements were made.

“More seriously, it also confirms this fracking ban is a game to the SNP, aimed at pandering to the extreme elements in the independence-supporting green lobby.”

Beamish said: “This sums up perfectly the SNP government's attitude - spin before substance.

“Nicola Sturgeon and her ministers told MSPs – and more importantly campaigners and communities – that Scottish towns and villages were no longer at risk from fracking and the environmental damage it can cause because they had banned it.

"Now the government's lawyer is saying the opposite - saying it is the language of a press release.

“SNP ministers need to explain this - fast. It isn't sustainable for the SNP to be saying one thing on their leaflets, website and in press releases and something else entirely in a courtroom."

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