Paul Wheelhouse: Ministers will respect Parliament's view on fracking
Wheelhouse confirms that responses to the ongoing consultation has reached into “five figures”
Environmental groups have welcomed confirmation from Paul Wheelhouse that ministers will give MSPs the final say on whether or not to allow fracking in Scotland, after the energy minister pledged to “respect the will of Parliament” on the decision.
Providing a ministerial statement on unconventional oil and gas, Wheelhouse confirmed that responses to the ongoing consultation has reached into “five figures”, telling MSPs “We will, of course, respect the will of the Parliament on the issue, while following the statutory assessments and procedures required.”
The Scottish Parliament last year backed a motion – tabled by Labour MSP Claudia Beamish – to ban fracking in Scotland after Labour, Green and Lib Dem MSPs voted in favour, the Tories voted against and the SNP chose to abstain.
The Scottish Government introduced a moratorium on the technique – a form of unconventional gas extraction – back in January 2015.
Ministers launched its consultation on whether or not to introduce fracking or coal bed methane extraction in January 2017. It closes on 31 May.
The Government said responses will be independently analysed before ministers make a recommendation, which will then go to parliament for a vote. A final decision will be made later this year.
But with the government yet to make a decision on whether or not to allow fracking in Scotland, Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie Rennie claimed the statement was “nothing more than an advert for an ongoing consultation”.
The Scottish Greens’ energy and environment spokesperson, Mark Ruskell, said the statement made “more important than ever” that communities make their views clear to ministers.
He said: “The current moratorium is legally shaky and needs to turn into a full ban as soon as possible, but that can only happen if there is a surge of evidence coming from communities about the damaging impact fracking could cause. The clock is ticking and we are close to a decision that could protect our climate and our communities from a reckless industry that has no relevance to the future low carbon world we need.”
Meanwhile Friends of the Earth Scotland head of campaigns Mary Church welcomed Wheelhouse’s statement.
She said: “Given the views of the main parties on fracking, with Greens, Labour and Lib Dems firmly opposed to the industry and the Conservatives in favour, the deciding votes will be cast by SNP members.
“More than ten thousand people have already participated in the consultation, the vast majority undoubtedly calling for an outright ban.
“Parliament has already voted to ban fracking once, and we are confident that if MSPs of all parties listen to the views of their constituents, it will do so again, resoundingly.”
Rennie said: “Rather than stalling time after, ministers should recognise that Parliament has already given the government its instructions to ban fracking on climate change grounds.
“SNP have been declaring all week that the will of Parliament is sacrosanct. It is one rule for them and another for everyone else.”
The Scottish Government commissioned six reports into different effects of introducing onshore unconventional oil and gas extraction (UOG) in Scotland last year, but they did not recommend whether or not the technique should be given the go-ahead.
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