Party accused of 'shambles'
Wheelhouse defends fracking licence extension
Paul Wheelhouse: no change to our position (pic: Terry Murden)
The SNP is facing accusations of a shambolic policy on fracking after ministers extended a key licence despite claiming the practice had been banned.
The licence jointly owned by Ineos and Reach Oil and Gas covers an area of 150 miles to the south west of Falkirk will be extended until June 2019, according to opponents.
Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse insisted the decision “does not alter the current position that we do not support the development of unconventional oil and gas”.
But political opponents claimed the policy was in chaos.
Labour’s Environment and Climate Change spokesman Claudia Beamish said: “This is a deeply concerning development.
“The SNP’s position on fracking has been exposed as a complete shambles – firstly claiming it was banned before having to quickly backtrack in the courts.
“Now we learn ministers are extending the licence for extensive fracking in the central belt, while finalising business and environmental assessments. That is unacceptable and sends completely the wrong message to concerned communities and to clean renewables companies about the future intentions of the Scottish Government on fracking.
“The uncertainty has gone on for far too long – Scotland doesn’t need or want another fossil fuel – for our planet or for our people. This decision should be urgently reviewed.”
Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The Scottish Government’s stance on fracking is erratic and nonsensical. Extending Ineos’ licence in Falkirk sits at odds with their resolute anti-fracking rhetoric.
“It was only last month they were flitting between calling it a ban and a ‘preferred position’ depending on the audience. Communities in areas at risk of being fracked won’t be impressed to see the supposedly solid fracking ban flip-flopped once again.
“Liberal Democrats are clear that embarking on a whole new front of carbon-based fuels and energy production would do nothing to help meet our climate commitments.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Head of Campaigns Mary Church said:”Extending this licence risks adding to the confusion caused by INEOS’s recent legal challenge, and only increases the pressure on the Scottish Government to move forward with its decision making process, legislate to ban fracking and draw a line under this issue for good.
“It is disappointing that the Scottish Government has opted to extend the license that was due to expire last month, when people locally and nationally have said no to fracking so clearly. The operators have already had one extension to this license and despite having consents in place before the moratorium on fracking, they hadn’t fulfilled their drilling commitments, so clearly this license should have been revoked.
“While it is unlikely that the operators will be able to do much in terms of advancing their shale gas ambitions in 12 months, it is an uncomfortable position for the Scottish Government to take given its opposition to fracking.”
Mr Wheelhouse said:“The extension of the PEDL 162 licence does not alter the current position that we do not support the development of unconventional oil and gas while the statutory assessments on the Scottish Government’s longer-term preferred policy are undertaken, as explained in the Minister’s statement last October.
“It should be remembered that the area affected does not have planning permission or the necessary environmental licences required prior to allowing any unconventional oil and gas extraction.
“In that regard, a result of the actions taken by this Government, no local authority can grant planning permission for any proposed fracking or coal bed methane project and Scottish Ministers would defer any decision on any planning application that did come forward until the full policy making process on our preferred position is completed and, as Ministers propose, a policy to not support unconventional oil and gas is adopted in planning policy.
“The practical effect of the moratorium established in 2015 is that no fracking can take place in Scotland at this time.”