Ministers confirm opposition

Scottish government calls for fracking ban

Paul Wheelhouse

Paul Wheelhouse: indefinite moratorium (photo by Terry Murden)

The Scottish government has confirmed its opposition to fracking and stated that the current moratorium will continue “indefinitely”.

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse told MSPs they will be given a vote on the issue before the end of the year before a final decision is taken.

A moratorium has been in place since 2015 and ministers have also ruled out underground coal gasification on environmental grounds.

Ministers came to their well-trailed verdict following the outcome of several commissioned inquiries on the controversial oil and gas extraction technique, and a public consultation which began in January and resulted in 60,000 responses.

Mr Wheelhouse said the consultation produced “overwhelming” opposition to fracking, with 99% of responses opposed to the technique.

The government’s position will come as no surprise but it will prompt a huge debate over Scotland’s energy strategy.

Supporters of fracking say it would create a new energy source to add to the mix of resources and a new industry creating thousands of jobs.

The Scottish Tories described the decision as “short-sighted and economically damaging” arguing that a ban is being put in place despite the Scottish Government’s own scientists saying shale could be explored safely, with many other parts of the world enjoying huge economic boosts as a result of the industry.

Conservative 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.”

He said 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.”

The decision was welcomed by Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Scottish Labour environment spokesperson Claudia Beamish said: “This is a victory for Labour, environmental groups and communities across Scotland.

“Labour has long argued that the climate change science is clear – we do not need another fossil fuel. Instead Scotland needs to develop forms of renewable energy with unionised and well paid jobs.

“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.”

LibDem energy spokesperson Liam McArthur 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.”

Elisabeth Whitebread, energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “The Scottish Government ban on fracking is a huge win for thousands of people who have campaigned against fracking for six years. 

“Unlike Westminster, Holyrood is listening to public opinion. We already have more gas than we can afford to burn, and as well as damaging the climate, fracking will cause local noise, air and light pollution.

“By announcing an outright ban on this new fossil fuel industry in Scotland, and using a fair process to reach their decision, the SNP Government is leading the way towards the clean energy system that people want.

“The Conservative Government in Westminster is now alone in backing fracking and looks very isolated indeed. Across England, growing numbers of local people will continue to oppose fracking and the failure of democracy on this issue.

“Conservatives in Westminster should stop chasing fracked gas, that we don’t need, and the overwhelming majority don’t want.”

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