Ministers' decision questioned
Ineos mounts legal challenge to fracking ban
Shale gas arriving in the Forth from the US
Energy and chemicals giant Ineos has lodged a legal challenge to the Scottish government’s ban on fracking for shale oil.
Ministers announced the decision last October following a consultation with the public and amid concern over environmental damage.
Shale gas is currently imported into Scotland from the US.
Ineos says there were “very serious errors” in the decision-making process, including a failure to adhere to proper statutory process and a misuse of ministerial power.
Tom Pickering, operations director at Ineos Shale, said: “The decision in October was a major blow to Scottish science and its engineering industry, as well as being financially costly to Ineos, other businesses and indeed the nation as a whole.
“It also removed at a stroke the potential for the country in these uncertain times to secure its own indigenous energy supply.”
Mr Pickering added: “If Scotland wants to continue to be considered as a serious place to do business, then it cannot simply remove the policy support that attracted that investment in the first place without proper procedures being followed and without the offer of appropriate financial compensation.
“In the light of these failings, Ineos has been left with no option other than to raise this legal challenge.”
The Scottish government, which first imposed a moratorium in 2015, argued that it took a “cautious, evidence-led approach” while coming to the decision and included business and communities.
The application will be heard at the Court of Session, Scotland’s supreme civil court.
Reacting to Ineos’s statement, Scottish Labour’s environment spokesperson, Claudia Beamish, said: “Ineos is out of step with the public and the Scottish Parliament when it comes to fracking.
“The people of Scotland don’t want it to happen and the Scottish Parliament has said that it’s not the right option for Scotland – not right for our communities, our water, our air and the future of our planet.
“But this legal action by Ineos suggests it may have received some kind of assurance from the Scottish Government before Labour pressure made the SNP agree that fracking should not take place in Scotland. We know that Ministers met with Ineos on a number of occasions, so now we need to know what was discussed.
“Scotland doesn’t need or want another fossil fuel – we can deliver alternative, sustainable jobs through proper investment in renewable energy and that is where Ineos should concentrate its resources.”
Greenpeace UK’s head of energy Hannah Martin said: “This is a desperate attempt by Ineos to overthrow a decision by the Scottish government which enjoyed widespread public support.
“The UK government’s latest figures have shown that the amount of electricity generated by burning gas is expected to halve by 2025, and by then renewables will have overtaken gas as Britain’s main power source. Fracked gas has no place in our energy future, especially in a country like Scotland that’s a world leader in renewable energy.”
Scottish Conservatives have criticised the ban, saying it denies Scotland the opportunity to build a new industry that would add to its energy mix and create thousands of jobs.
Finance spokesman Murdo Fraser backed the move by Ineos, saying a ban on fracking not only damaged the economy, but also missed a chance to lower energy bills.
He said: “The SNP’s decision to ban fracking is rooted in dogma, and ignores the economic benefits it could bring to Scotland.
“Further exploration of shale extraction could also reduce the need for gas imports, and even help relieve fuel poverty.
“The Scottish Government’s own advisers know this, yet still ministers are sticking to this needless and potentially damaging ban.
“This is another day in court for an SNP government which doesn’t think its policies through.
“That’s embarrassing for Scotland’s reputation, and exposes the amateurish attitude of the SNP on a range of issues.
“Fracking could be explored safely if properly regulated – and the whole country could benefit as a consequence.”