Energy Minister announces moratorium on fracking in Scotland
02 February 2015
On January 28, the Scottish Government announced a block on planned fracking operations, pending further inquiries. The announcement by Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing follows the decision by the UK Government to devolve full control over fracking to Scotland after May's general election. Ewing said Ministers would look into the environmental and health implications of the drilling technique.
In the meantime, consent for unconventional oil and gas developments will be refused on planning grounds. Ewing said that the Scottish government would be working to further strengthen planning guidance and environmental regulation.
The announcement came a day after Tom Crotty of INEOS, which holds licences to explore for shale gas in the central belt of Scotland, said high energy prices were damaging the industrial sector and shale gas could provide a lower cost alternative.
Earlier, the UK parliament defeated an attempt to impose a UK-wide moratorium but the coalition Government accepted proposals to tighten regulation of shale developments.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, described the announcement as a “huge victory for the communities, individuals and groups who have been campaigning to stop this dirty industry in Scotland”.
He added that he believed any serious examination of the mounting evidence would inevitably lead to a ban.
“While we are calling for an outright ban, a halt on the industry while a full examination of health and environmental impacts is carried out is very welcome. Scotland joins France, Ireland, the Netherlands and New York State in a long list of countries and regions which have acted to stop the unconventional gas industry. We are convinced that a proper examination of the mounting evidence of health and environmental concerns must lead to a full ban.”
Full control over fracking is due to be devolved to Scotland after May’s general election, following recommendations of last November’s Smith commission. On January 27, the Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones said that he believed that fracking licensing should also be devolved to Wales, and that the Welsh parliament should consider a moratorium on fracking.
Update: Scottish Ministers are deliberately misleading the Scottish public by pretending that their objections to fracking are environmental rather than political, a leading expert stated. He accused the Scottish National Party of a u-turn on its support for fracking to ward off a Labour threat in the upcoming elections.
Professor Paul Younger, Rankine Chair of Engineering at the University of Glasgow, has said that the Scottish Parliament’s reasons for a moratorium on fracking “made up” and “completely feigned”, the Telegraph reported.
Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics on February 1, Prof Younger said that Scottish ministers had lavished praise upon a 98 page report written by his expert scientific panel last June, which concluded that fracking could be safely carried out in Scotland as there were no significant technological barriers. It said that fracking could deliver significant financial gains to Scotland, but that the best reserves were located in more populated areas.