Scotland bans fracking
Fracking - image credit: Fotolia
The Scottish Government is opposed to fracking in Scotland, energy minister Paul Wheelhouse has announced.
Speaking in the chamber, Wheelhouse confirmed that the Scottish Parliament will vote on the issue in October, with the Scottish Government’s position meaning there is now a ban on fracking in place.
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.
Wheelhouse said: “The views expressed through our consultation demonstrated that communities across Scotland, particularly in densely populated areas where developments could potentially take place, are not convinced there is a strong national economic argument when balanced against the risk and disruption they anticipate in areas, such as transport, pollution, crucially, their health and wellbeing.
“It is clear that people across Scotland remain firmly opposed to fracking – this government has listened and taken decisive action.”
Ministers faced criticism from the Scottish Conservatives, with Dean Lockhart warning that “yet again Scotland’s economy is left behind”.
While the SNP, Scottish Labour and the Scottish Greens all oppose the introduction of the technique, a form of unconventional gas extraction, Wheelhouse also 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.
Friends of the Earth Scotland head of campaigns Mary Church said: “We urge the Scottish Government to go further than relying on planning powers to give effect to this ban, and instead commit to passing a law to ban the fracking industry for good.
“There's no doubt that when onshore oil and gas licensing powers are finally handed over it will be within the legislative competence of the Parliament to ban fracking, and that there is a powerful mandate to do so. The measures announced today are the right interim approach until licensing powers are technically transferred to Holyrood.”
The Scottish Government introduced a moratorium on unconventional oil and gas extraction in January 2015, with the decision today meaning the ban will continue indefinitely.
Scottish Tory shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said: “This is a short-sighted and economically damaging decision which is nothing more than a bid to appease the green elements of the pro-independence movement.
“According to the Scottish Government’s own scientists, the extraction of shale from Scotland, with the right safety checks, could be done safely. It could also support thousands of jobs and deliver economic benefits to communities.
“With the struggles the North Sea is facing, there could hardly be a better time to be getting on with this. Instead, the Scottish Government is killing this off while other parts of the world press ahead with fracking.”
In June the Scottish Parliament passed a motion – tabled by Claudia Beamish – to ban fracking, after Labour, Green and Lib Dem MSPS voted in favour, the Tories voted against and the SNP chose to abstain.
Beamish said: “This announcement is a result of Labour pressure and specifically my proposal to change the law to ban fracking in Scotland.
“But extending the moratorium indefinitely is not as strong as a full legal ban, and could be overturned at any point at the whim of a minister.
“These proposals don’t go far enough. They do not offer the protection of my Bill. That’s why I want the SNP government to work with me to ensure a full legal ban.”
Mark Ruskell MSP also called for ministers to go further. He said: “We are still a long way from turning a planning moratorium into a watertight ban that can resist legal challenge from powerful companies like INEOS.
“The Scottish Government must commit using a combination of powers over planning, environmental regulation and licensing to deliver a permanent ban. They must bring this back to the Scottish Parliament to be voted on after recess.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat energy spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP said: “Scottish Liberal Democrats believe that opening up a whole new front of carbon-based fuels and energy production would do nothing to help meet Scotland’s climate commitments. I therefore welcome this announcement of a ban on fracking.
“The Scottish Government may have taken the scenic route to get there, but it is right to join the growing consensus in declaring that fracking has no place in Scotland.”