MSPs To Vote On Plans For 'Immediate And Effective Ban' Of Fracking

24 October 2017, 05:44

fracking barrel

MSPs will be asked to back the Scottish Government's fracking ban in a parliamentary vote on Tuesday.

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse announced earlier this month planning regulations would be used to "effectively ban" the controversial gas extraction technique by extending the current moratorium "indefinitely".

Parliament will vote on the plans for "an immediate and effective ban" following a debate.

All opposition parties have opposed fracking, except the Conservatives.

Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting water at high pressure into shale formations, fracturing the rock and allowing natural gas to flow out.

Opponents have raised concerns over the impact on health and the environment, while supporters highlight the economic benefits and claim regulation could mitigate any adverse effects.

Anti-fracking groups will stage a demonstration outside Holyrood before the vote calling for legislation to be passed outlawing fracking.

Friends of the Earth Scotland's head of campaigns, Mary Church, said: "The Scottish Government's plan to ban fracking is fantastic news for communities and the environment. But we would like to see Ministers go even further and secure the fracking ban in law."

She added: "Unfortunately, the Government's proposal falls short of committing to passing a law like recent bans in Ireland, Victoria and Maryland.

"This means that a future Government could overturn this decision with the stroke of a pen, while a ban in law would require Parliament's approval to undo the ban on fracking.

"Powers over onshore oil and gas licensing are coming to Scotland and we want to see a commitment to use these powers to legislate against fracking as soon as they are in place."

Scottish Green climate and energy spokesman Mark Ruskell called for these powers to be transferred immediately from Westminster to Holyrood.

He said Green MSPs will argue that any ban should be solidified by recognition in both the energy strategy and the next version of the National Planning Framework.

Speaking before the debate, he said: "The Scottish Government's intention to ban fracking is sincere, but ministers must use the current powers Holyrood has on planning, and the powers that are coming soon on licensing to shut the gate on fracking forever.

"The ban is almost in place, but to get it over the line government must place it on the same basis as the ban on new nuclear power."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We have conducted one of the most far-reaching investigations into unconventional oil and gas extraction of any government anywhere in the world, and we have concluded that evidence suggests that to allow fracking would make achievement of Scotland's vital, statutory climate change targets far more challenging.

"Our extensive consultation indicated that there is evidently no 'social licence' in the areas most likely to be affected, and thousands of respondents from those 13 council areas are very strongly opposed.

"The Scottish Government does not support the development of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland. As the Minister has set out, and will reiterate in the parliamentary debate, the steps we have taken are robust, will follow a similar approach to that taken on preventing new nuclear power stations, and have given immediate affect to our position, which means no fracking will take place in Scotland."