The move was heralded in a letter over the weekend by Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing to his Westminster counterpart in which he urged UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey to stop the UK Government issuing any more licences for unconventional oil and gas in Scotland.
Ewing said: “As Scottish Energy Minister, I have long said that the issues of unconventional oil and gas should be decided in Scotland – not by the UK Government who have taken a gung-ho approach to unconventional oil and gas and fracking.
“I was thus pleased that our campaign for the devolution of these powers was successful. It should now follow that the UK Government will not issue further licences in Scotland in the period before the powers are transferred, and I have written to UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey to that effect.
“The Scottish Government have taken a cautious, considered and evidence-based approach to unconventional oil and gas. We have put in place robust environmental regulation, tougher planning rules and successfully opposed the UK Government’s plans to end Scottish householders rights to object to drilling under their homes.
“With the devolution process now under way I will make a statement to Parliament this week about how we intend to take forward and strengthen our precautionary approach.”
Last night, the SNP’s Westminster energy spokesman Mike Weir, MP, said: “We’ll be voting today for the amendment to ensure the Tories stop granting licences in Scotland given licensing powers are due to be devolved, as set out by the Smith Commission.
“Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has written to the UK Government asking them not to issue any more licences in Scotland, but today’s vote can force them to stop. This would ensure that the Tory days of gung-ho fracking policies come to an end in Scotland.”
With no MPs in Westminster, the Scottish Greens have petitioned the UK government to stop granting licences to frack for gas in Scotland, and have written direct to British Energy Minister Ed Davey.
Party leader Patrick Harvie, MSP, said; “Opinion polling shows most Scots oppose fracking, and most want decisions over licensing devolved. Yet the current round of licensing, affecting the entire Central Belt, is still being pursued by the UK Government”.
Harvie and fellow Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone have been campaigning against unconventional gas extraction since the 2011 election. As well as proposing a ban, they have urged ministers to provide funding for local authorities to develop robust policies to handle any fracking applications.
Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, MP, has pledged to ban fracking in Scotland if he becomes First Minister.
Sir Robert Smith, (Lib) MP, for Aberdeenshire West, commented: “The oil and gas industry supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, a vast UK-wide supply chain and a vibrant export market. From subsea engineering to specialist skills training – the industry is a world leader in numerous fields.
“The industry faced challenges before the fall in the price of oil. But the downturn means that the MER initiative needs to be enshrined in law as a matter of urgency.
“As we make the transition to renewable energy we will need gas as part of our energy mix. By supporting MER we can reduce our reliance on imported energy and high emission coal. We can also protect valuable jobs, continue to build on our highly diverse skills base and ensure that the export market remains anchored to the UK.”