Ineos said today it was astonished to learn that the Scottish Government claimed it had not issued a ban on fracking in Scotland.
In a statement marking the end of its judicial review hearing in Edinburgh, the company described “an Alice-in-Wonderland situation” where businesses needed to go to court to verify announcements made in the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.
Ineos Shale and Reach Coal Seam Gas have claimed undisclosed damages over what they argue is the unlawful Scottish Government decision on fracking.
The Scottish Government told the Court of Session on Tuesday that it had continued the existing moratorium on unconventional oil and gas, rather than imposing a ban.
At today’s hearing, the government’s lawyer, James Mure QC, said a strategic environmental assessment into the policy was now underway. This would be followed by a business and regulatory impact assessment and consultation before a final decision was made.
Gerry Moynihan QC, for the companies, said the court needed to look at what had been said in the statement to Parliament in October 2017. When the moratorium was announced this was described as “an effective ban”, he said.
Ministers decided to impose a ban, realised they did not have the powers under the Scotland Act, and used planning powers as a means to an end, which was a ban, Mr Moynihan added.
This afternoon, Tom Pickering, Operations Director of Ineos Shale, said:
“We came to the Court of Session to review the Scottish Government’s position on onshore unconventional Oil and Gas development in Scotland.
“We were astonished to learn during proceedings that the Scottish Government claims that it has not issued a ban on fracking in Scotland, and indeed there may never be one.
“The position of the Scottish Government that has now been stated in court represents a staggering U-turn on the policy direction announced by the Energy Minister during Parliamentary debate in October last year, and by the First Minister when she said in Parliament ‘Scotland should welcome the fact that fracking in Scotland is banned’.
“The Scottish people and Parliament may find this revelation barely believable, when the Government has repeatedly told Holyrood that there is an effective and immediate ban.
“The developments during the Judicial Review process undermine the statements made by Ministers and cast further uncertainty and ambiguity across the policy framework for onshore unconventional oil and gas development in Scotland. We took Ministers and the Government at their word.
“Sadly we seem to have reached the Alice-in-Wonderland situation where a business has to go to the Scottish courts to establish whether announcements in Holyrood can be taken at face value. As a result there is now an unpredictable and uncertain environment for business in Scotland. Jobs rely on investment, but there is precious little in Scotland at the present time. The current situation makes it harder than ever for business to invest in Scotland for the long term.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said in a statement this afternoon:
“The Scottish Government’s preferred position is that it does not support the development of unconventional oil and gas.
“As we have made clear, this position is subject to a Strategic Environmental Assessment. It remains inappropriate to comment further during the judicial review process.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland was given a rare permission to intervene in the case. The campaign organisation argued that the Scottish Government must ban fracking to meet its obligations under the Paris climate treaty.
The judge in the case, Lord Pentland, reserved judgement to a future date.
Links to DrillOrDrop reports
Day 2: When is a ban not a ban?