Substantial support for fracking within Lib Dem membership, says election candidate
There is still substantial support for fracking within the Scottish Liberal Democrats, according to one of the party’s candidates for the 2016 Scottish Parliament election.
Lib Dem members voted in favour of fracking at conference, before the party leadership intervened to reverse the position and insist the party was opposed to the technique.
But remarks from Martin Veart, the Lib Dem candidate for Edinburgh Northern and Leith, have raised questions over the party’s stance, with the candidate telling a hustings event that unless Scotland either allows onshore fracking or starts importing electricity from abroad then “the lights will start to dip”.
Speaking at a Scottish Environment LINK hustings, Veart said his support for fracking had led to “interesting email conversations with Willie Rennie”.
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Meanwhile Scottish Labour candidate Sarah Boyack said the SNP’s consultation was simply a means of delaying the decision until after the election, when it could give fracking the go-ahead.
Veart argued that, with renewable energy sources still incapable of producing all of Scotland’s energy, either gas or nuclear are the only ways the country could keep emissions under control.
Explaining the Lib Dem U-turn after the party conference voted in favour of fracking, Veart said: “It would have been no more than a bridging technology, that was our argument, because if we go purely for renewables we risk falling short and having to import our electricity from other areas, from sources like Iceland, which is just in the discussion at the moment.
“We need to get a move on otherwise the lights will start to dip. So that is why it was voted, and then it was reverse by the leadership who said ‘no, we are not going to campaign on this’. So at the moment the official Liberal Democrat policy is to ban fracking. It is something I that I have had interesting email conversations with Willie Rennie about. But we both agree the main purpose is to reduce overall global greenhouse gas emissions.”
Asked by chair Joyce McMillan if the Lib Dem leadership’s position was to ban fracking, but that a substantial body of opinion in the party still sees it as the cleanest option during the transition to renewables, Veart replied, “Absolutely, [cleaner] than importing our gas either from places like Qatar or the US.”
He said: “Gas production, offshore, is going to continue to plummet. So this is why the Liberal Democrats at our conference looked at the evidence in this report, and the second question was how it compared in terms of greenhouse gases globally. Were there more greenhouse gases by importing it via tanker or via pipeline, or are there less greenhouse gases if we produce it here. There was another report… which suggested it compared very favourably with imported sources of oil and gas.”
Scottish Labour candidate Sarah Boyack questioned the SNP’s decision to hold a consultation on fracking.
Boyack said: “If we are tackling carbon emissions, we just don’t see a place for fracking in Scotland. We pushed really hard for a moratorium, then when we got the moratorium, if you look at the science behind that and the research being done, it’s all just basically a way of giving it a green light after the election.
“We need to push really hard on this, we should not be opening up a new front of carbon emissions in Scotland. As a ex-planner I have real reservations about the whole of the central belt – it’s where our old mining communities are, its where our old mining works are – and in terms of the environment, the issue of methane leakage, the impact on communities, it is just too risky, never mind the carbon emissions.”
Responding, SNP candidate Heather Anderson said: “There are very strong opinions within the SNP membership about fracking. We have two moratoriums at the moments, so in terms of straightforward fracking, there is no fracking, it will not be carried out unless there are absolutely no unanswered questions or doubts.
“So basically the moratorium that was applied has an evidence gathering phase which will run until the end of summer this year, and then there will be a consultation, because part of the issue for the party is that we have to govern the country, so although it would be nice for us individually to ban fracking, we have to take into account all of the scientific evidence, all of the data we can to make a completely robust case about the action we take. So it is evidence gathering, it is scientific based, it is a long period of making sure everybody is consulted and has their say so we make the best decision.”