Scottish Government Announces Fracking Ban

3 October 2017, 14:45 | Updated: 3 October 2017, 15:25

Holyrood's Energy Minister

The Scottish Government has announced a ban on fracking.

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse confirmed the government will outlaw the controversial gas extraction technique in Scotland.

A moratorium on the practice has been in place since January 2015 and the government's decision follows extensive consultation and consideration of reports on its potential impact.

Mr Wheelhouse said: "Fracking cannot, and will not take place in Scotland."

He said it was the responsibility of the government to make decisions in the best interests of Scotland as a whole.

The minister added: "I can confirm the conclusion of the Scottish Government is that we will not support the development of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland."

A public consultation on the issue received more than 60,000 responses, 99% of which were opposed to fracking.

Friends of the Earth Scotland head of campaigns Mary Church said: "This is a victory for the environment and for local communities fighting fracking.

"The Scottish Government's decision today to ban fracking will be warmly welcomed across the country and around the world.

"This is a huge win for the anti-fracking movement, particularly for those on the frontline of this dirty industry here in Scotland, who have been working for a ban these last six years.

"Having put a moratorium in place more than two years ago, evaluated the evidence and consulted the people of Scotland, the Scottish Government has reached the right and sensible conclusion that the fracking industry must be banned to avoid potentially devastating impacts to people's health, the climate and our natural environment."

Mr Wheelhouse said an immediate ban will be put in place and the Scottish Parliament's endorsement will be sought during a debate and vote following recess later this month.

Welcoming the ban, Dr Sam Gardner, acting director of WWF Scotland, said: "It's excellent news the Scottish Government has listened to the thousands of people, campaigners, and politicians across the country who have been calling for a permanent ban to fracking.

"The climate science is clear. The vast majority of fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground. It's fantastic Scottish Ministers agree that we need to start placing them off limits."

Mr Wheelhouse said the government would use planning regulations to extend the current moratorium "indefinitely", removing the need for legislation.

He said: "Let me be clear that the action is sufficient to effectively ban the development of unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland."

Conservative MSP Dean Lockhart said the decision meant Scotland's economy was being "left behind" and that reports had shown fracking could bring up to £4.6 billion in additional GVA and thousands of jobs.

He said: "This much-needed economic boost and these jobs will now be created outside of Scotland, thanks to the SNP."

Political parties and green campaigners have argued that fracking causes damage to the environment, while others have highlighted potential economic benefits.

Gary Smith, the GMB union's Scotland secretary, accused the Scottish Government of being "dishonest and hypercritical", adding: "Scotland is importing a huge amount of shale gas from Trump's America.

"If the government wants to be consistent, it will now ban shale gas imports, threatening a huge number of job losses.

"The government has failed to explain where the two million households in Scotland using gas to heat their homes will get gas from in the future."

Labour's environment spokeswoman Claudia Beamish called on the minister to back her Private Member's Bill to enshrine the ban in legislation.

She said: "Extending the moratorium indefinitely, whilst welcome, is not as strong as a full legal ban and could be overturned at any point at the whim of a future minister.

"These proposals do not go far enough. They do not offer the protection that my Bill would."

Green MSP Mark Ruskell also called for legislation confirming the fracking ban, saying: "We don't have a ban in front of us.

"The Scottish Government today has merely extended its moratorium, a moratorium which is legally shaky and open to challenge by large companies such as Ineos."

Liam McArthur MSP 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."