Scot-Govt vows to impose permanent ban on fracking

Govt graphic showing depth of average onshore gas well - with Big Ben shows (bottom left) in comparison
Govt graphic showing depth of average onshore gas well – with Big Ben shown (bottom left) in comparison

The Scot-Govt has announced that it will not support the development of onshore oil and gas in Scotland –  meaning there is an effective ban on fracking in Scotland.

Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse told MSPs that the practice <of fracking> “cannot and will not take place in Scotland” and that he wanted its ‘temporary’ ban on onshore oil and gas – imposed in January 2015 – to ‘continue indefinitely’.

His statement is not – yet – a ‘permanent ban’ on hydraulic fracturing because – as Wheelhouse announced last year – a final decision on such relies on a majority vote in the House of Parliament at Holyrood between now and Christmas.

And in line with statutory requirement, as with the previous ban on underground coal gasification, a ‘Strategic Environmental Assessment’ will be undertaken, following a parliamentary vote, to assess the impact of the government’s position.

So the ‘temporary moratorium’ continues as a de facto ‘permanent ban’ by the Scot-Govt’s refusal to allow local councils to accept any planning applications for, or related to, onshore oil and gas exploration in Scotland. And Wheelhouse’s statement yesterday changes nothing. Yet.

This is not – yet – a permanent ban, which may result in both politically and financially costly legal battles with the oil and gas industry in appeals to domestic courts in Scotland and Britain – as well as the EU – in the same way that the Scot-Govt’s plans to impose a minimum price for alcohol has been halted in Brussels.

Paul Wheelhouse, MSP
Paul Wheelhouse, MSP

In his statement, Wheelhouse announced that 99% of responses to the public consultation were in favour of a fracking ban and that the Scot-Govt had taken a ‘cautious, evidence-led’ approach to fracking.

This is despite both the evidence of two independent scientific reviews which concluded that onshore oil and gas could be carried out safely within the current, or an enhanced, regulatory regime and the fact that Friends of the Earth had been ordered to remove lies in its campaign materials by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Wheelhouse 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.”

Given that all parties with MSPs in Holyrood – except for the Tories – want to ban onshore oil and gas exploration – any motion to that effect which the Scot-Govt brings forward next month will almost certainly be carried.

But there is also the possibility of an unexpected pathway opening up for onshore oil and gas exploration in Scotland if the Brit-Govt re-acquires powers from Brussels under Brexit from the EU on licensing of onshore energy projects – thereby over-ruling the Scot-Govt ‘ban’.

However, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth commented: “Given that the UK Government has only just devolved fracking licensing powers to Holyrood, it is quite unlikely that it plans to take them back.

“But the Scottish Government and Parliament should act as soon as the powers are handed over to ban fracking in case this most obvious and powerful route to stop the industry is jeopardised by Brexit negotiations.”

Tory MSP Dean Lockhart said that “after years of indecision, the <Scot> government have taken a position and the Scottish economy is left behind.

He asked what impact assessment the government has carried out on how this ban will affect the economy and how many jobs will be lost, and added:

“If this decision <to ban fracking> has not been made based on the economy then the government is simply playing politics.”

For Labour, Claudia Beamish, MSP, the party’s Scottish environment spokesman, commented: “Labour has long argued that the climate change science is clear – we do not need another fossil fuel. Instead Scotland needs to develop forms of renewable energy with unionised and well-paid jobs.

“But extending the moratorium indefinitely is not as strong as a full legal ban, and could be overturned at any point at the whim of a minister.”

This subtle but significant procedural point was also highlighted by Patrick Harvie, MSP, leader of the Scottish Green party.

He said: “The Minister <Wheelhouse> hasn’t used the word “ban”, but rather seeks to make the moratorium indefinite. It’s unclear exactly what this means.”

And Labour MSP Daniel Johnson, added: “The SNP are claiming they are “banning fracking”. Without a legal change, it is no such thing. Merely a decision “not to do it at the moment.”

Mark Ruskell a Scottish Green MSP, added: “While welcome the Scottish Government’s clear intention to ban fracking, we are still a long way from turning a planning moratorium into a watertight ban that can resist legal challenge from powerful companies like INEOS.

“The Scottish Government must commit using a combination of powers over planning, environmental regulation and licensing to deliver a permanent ban. They must bring this back to the Scottish Parliament to be voted on after recess.”

The public consultation responses – many of which are ‘infected’ by lies and half-truths published in Friends of the Earth campaign material before it was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority – can be viewed here:


For example: Statement by Jock Wishart

What are your views on the potential climate change impacts of unconventional oil and gas industry in Scotland?

It will just add global warming
Statement by Mrs Sonia Buchanan, Fife

1. What are your views on the potential social, community and health impacts of an unconventional oil and gas industry in Scotland?

Having read widely regarding other countries’ experiences with unconventional oil and gas industries, the prospect of it frightens me. I believe strongly that any possible shortterm positives will be vastly outweighed by longterm negative impacts in many areas: to our environment due to the lack of guarantee that leaks of the noxious chemicals used in processes and of the oil and gas itself that it extracted will not occur, also from the necessary greatly increased traffic to and from sites which would also create more of a burden on existing infrastructure. 
if these processes were to start in Scotland they cannot be kept separate from people, they will be in and amongst us and beneath our feet, nosebleeds, headaches and serious resiratory and nervous system problems are a real consequence. This will have longterm damaging impacts also on the economy i believe – the housing market will be affected, with likely effects of lowered house prices and people unable to move from affected areas due to inability to sell, also the impact on our tourism to eg such beautiful areas as Fife (where i live) 
There would be a huge impact on our whiskey industry too i think, dependent is it not on the quality of our water? Which will not be able to be kept safe from contamination. Agriculture in particular certified organic farms would surely be unable to continue as organic with probable chemical contamination of the land and water. I may come across as alarmist but i have read widely about the proven impacts and very real risks, not ‘possible but unlikely’, more ‘extremely likely and widespread’ that other countries have experienced, the technology has not had some sort of recent overhaul with new guarantees that no risks are there,
Statement by Catherine Maguire
I believe the potential impacts would be overwhelmingly negative. It would lead to the destruction of our environment, with increases in greenhouse gasses especially methane. The contamination of our ground water will occur and when it does it will not be reversible. Our whisky industry relies on the quality of our water as do our agricultural and fishing industries. They are too important to risk for the short term potential profits for fracking companies. The extra load on our roads due to trucks carrying fracking fluids will add to the wear and tear on infrastructure, cause more congestion, increase noise and air pollution. The chemicals used in the fracking fluids are known to cause illness in both humans and animals. The blight on the landscape will impact our thriving and growing tourist industry.
Statement by David Reid
Contamination of crops and livestock has been proven which would greatly damage scotlands economy and record for our purity if our water as a result whiskey produce and our own farm produce would take the biggest knock out weighing any potential short term gain from using this method of energy extraction


See also

Fibbing by Friends of Earth with false fracking claims will make Scot-Govt’s final public consultation on shale gas worthless 


Annex 1: Campaign responses
Avaaz online campaign
Broad Alliance postcard campaign
Broad Alliance: model answers to consultation questions
Friends of the Earth Scotland online campaign
Friends of the Earth Scotland postcard campaign
Greenpeace online campaign
Scottish Greens online campaign
South Lanarkshire against Unconventional Gas (SLAUG) letter campaign

Annex 2: Petition texts
38 Degrees online petition online petition
Children’s petition
Our Forth petition
Scotland Against Fracking petition



4 Oct 2017

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