The Scottish Government is to hold private meetings with environmental groups and with industry representatives ahead of the public consultation promised by Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing when he announced his fracking moratorium last week.
Ewing and fellow Scottish Government Ministers are to now offer to meet with key stakeholders with an interest in this area in advance of a full public consultation.
Environmental organisations, including Friends of the Earth Scotland and WWF Scotland, both welcomed the announcement. Industry bodies including Ineos and the UK Onshore Operators Group also welcomed the opportunity to engage in the consultation.
The Minister said: “I totally understand that those with different perspectives in the debate on unconventional oil and gas have strongly held views, but I very much welcome the positive and constructive welcome from both industry interests and from environmental organisations to the Scottish Government’s announcement of a full public consultation and a moratorium on unconventional oil and gas.
“As I informed Parliament we will set out the timetable for the programme of work on unconventional oil and gas in due course.
“However as a precursor to that, myself and fellow Ministers are happy to have a series of meeting with both industry representatives and environmental organisations to further discuss this issue.
“Our approach in Scotland is to build consensus where possible, not to create confrontation, and provide a right to take part in a consultation.”
Ken Cronin, chief executive of UKOOG, said: “A whole range of experts – including public health bodies in the UK, the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management and the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering – have all concluded that any health and environmental risks can be managed in a well regulated industry.
“However, we recognise that the general public have concerns about the issues around fracking and we welcome this opportunity to present the facts to the Scottish people.
Many independent reports, including the independent panel set up by the Scottish Government1, have commented that a robust regulatory process is substantially in place.”
Meanwhile, it has been reported that two unconventional oil and gas companies, Cluff Natural Resources and Five Quarter Energy, have already obtained licences from the UK Department of Energy (which issues permits to explore for UK-state-owned mineral resources) to explore for gas reserves under the Firth of Forth using coal-gasification technologies.
Jim Birrell, head of planning at Fife Council, is due to meet with Cluff Natural Resources this week to consider planning and related issues prior to any possible subsequent application.
Investors in Five Quarter Energy include Buccleuch Estates, which has also applied for planning permission to using fracking processes to recover potential shale gas reserves around Canonbie, Dumfries-shire.
Mark Oddy, a Director of Newcastle-based Five Quarter Energy, is also Estate Manager at Buccleuch Estates.