A claim by the lawyer for the Scot-Govt that it has ‘not banned fracking’ was described yesterday as “beyond humiliating” by the two petrochemical companies who are conducting a legal appeal by way of judicial review of Sturgeon’s ban on onshore oil and gas exploration <aka ‘ fracking’>.
They averred that Sturgeon and her Scot-Govt ministers had in effective established an “unlawful” ban via its ‘administrative’ moratorium rendering planning application permissions for fracking and ancillary works null and void.
The lawyer for INEOS, the petro-chemicals giant which owns the Grangemouth refinery complex, told the supreme Court of Session in Edinburgh that Scot-Govt ministers had ‘created a policy through public statements that would prevent a fracking industry’ from developing in Scotland.”
Gerry Moynihan, QC, told the court that Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish Energy Minister, had used the phrase “effective ban” when he told MSPs in November 2017 that the government’s moratorium on the practice was being extended.
He also stated that a claim by the government’s QC on Wednesday that it was just stating its preferred position was wrong.
Urging the judge Lord Pentland to rule in favour of his clients – the petrochemical companies Ineos and Reach CSG – Moynihan argued that ministers had acted “unlawfully” by banning fracking under planning legislation.
Previously, the lawyer for the Scot-Govt – James Mure, QC – told the court on the first day of the hearing that the concept of an effective ban was a “gloss” and the “language of a press statement”.
But Scottish Conservative MPs said senior SNP figures talked about a “ban” on at least 10 occasions in the last year.
They said that in October 2017, Sturgeon said: “Those who, like me, do not believe that fracking should go ahead in Scotland should welcome the fact that fracking in Scotland is banned.”
The SNP’s website currently states: “The Scottish Government has put in place a ban on fracking in Scotland – meaning fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland.”
Alexander Burnett, MSP the Scottish Tory energy spokesman, said: “This is now beyond humiliating for the SNP. It would be funny were it not so serious.
“People will be stunned that a QC <aka top lawyer> representing the SNP government in court could so spectacularly contradict the claims and parliamentary statements of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse.
“Both should explain to parliament as a matter of urgency why these seemingly misleading statements were made.
“More seriously, it also confirms this fracking ban is a game to the SNP, aimed at pandering to the extreme elements in the independence-supporting green lobby.”
INEOS owns two fracking licences in Scotland and imports fracked shale gas from the United States once a fortnight into Grangemouth via huge supertankers it built in China.
It has said that a ban on fracked oil and gas extraction would result in Scotland missing out on about 3,100 jobs and a £1 billion benefit for local communities.
In legal pleadings submitted to the court, INEOS and Aberdeen-based Reach Coal Seam Gas aver that the government statement last autumn showed SNP policy had changed ‘from a moratorium to an outright ban.’
Referring to the government’s comments in court, Moynihan added: “It was said that it was a gloss. We are dancing around handbags – what does ‘a gloss’ even mean?”
The hearing is expected to continue today and tomorrow (11 May 2018).
10 May 2018
Observers have 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?”