EXCLUSIVE by Scottish Energy News
The Scot-Govt has urged the country’s supreme court to dismiss the judicial review appeal against its ‘ban’ on onshore oil and gas exploration in Scotland (aka ‘fracking’).
The appeal case against the ban started in the Court of Session yesterday in Edinburgh, with petro-chemicals giant INEOS and Aberdeen-based Reach Coal Seam Gas arguing that the ban is illegal.
INEOS owns the Grangemouth refinery and also holds two UK onshore oil and gas exploration licences for specified blocks of land in Scotland.
Since the Scot-Govt imposed its ban on onshore oil and gas exploration, INEOS built a fleet of supertankers to import fracked shale gas from the United States to process at Grangemouth.
But the Scot-Govt lawyer James Mure, QC, attempted to get the appeal case dismissed in a ‘Yes, Minister’ hair-splitting legal distinction that the case is incompetent on the grounds that there is no actual ‘ban’.
Rather, Mure averred that INEOS and Reach Coal Seam are mistaken in thinking that a ban was in place, and said that ministers were still considering whether fracking should be stopped – with a decision due in October 2018.
Mure added: “The concept of an effective ban is a gloss. It is the language of a press statement.
“What they <Scot-Govt.) have done is to announce a preferred position on the issue.
“They have not yet adopted a position. Any position which the government will take has to undergo an environmental and strategic assessment.
“The court should therefore allow the policy-making process to go to finalisation which is expected in October this year.”
Observers noted that when Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said – in the debate in October 2017 in Holyrood – that he wanted MSPs to support the Scot-Govt call for a ‘ban’ on onshore oil and gas exploration.
Moreover, the Scottish government announced a moratorium – or temporary halt – on fracking in January 2015 while it sought the opinions of experts and the public on whether the controversial oil extraction technique should be allowed in Scotland.
In Nov 2017, Scot-Govt ministers concluded there was “overwhelming opposition” and announced what was described at the time as an “effective ban”.
In fact, the ‘catch-all’ anti-fracking motion** approved by MSPs in a 4 to 1 vote in favour on 8 Nov 2017 in Holyrood resolved that Parliament: –
- Agrees with the Scottish Government’s position of not supporting the development of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland;
- Endorses the government’s decision to introduce an immediate and effective ban on onshore unconventional oil and gas developments using its devolved powers.
**For full text, see
Holyrood MPs vote 4 to 1 in favour of ‘fracking ban with knobs on’ to permanently prevent onshore oil and gas exploration in Scotland
“Has Friends of Earth duped its Scots and London lawyers over its use of banned ‘evidence’ in INEOS anti-fracking appeal?”
9 May 2018