Scottish government accused of “dilly-dallying” as it delays decision on fracking ban

Scottish Parliament 170531 Friends of the Earth Scotland

Opponents of fracking calling for a ban, 31 May 2017. Photo: Friends of the Earth Scotland

The Scottish government has delayed its decision on whether to ban fracking.

There has been a moratorium on fracking in Scotland since January 2015 and what the Scottish government described as an “effective ban” since October 2017.

A final policy decision had been promised by the end of this month, following a public consultation. But in a parliamentary answer today the energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, announced that a further consultation on new documents would begin after the Easter holiday.

He said:

“Our final policy on unconventional oil and gas will be confirmed and adopted as soon as possible after this process is complete.”

The announcement came just days after a legal opinion confirmed that the Scottish government had the power to ban fracking.

Friends of the Earth Scotland, which commissioned that opinion, said today:

“it’s time for the Scottish Government to stop dilly-dallying, have the courage of its convictions and legislate to stop the industry for good.”

Paul Wheelhouse

Paul Wheelhouse

Scotland has now had two consultations on fracking.

The first, in 2017, saw about 60,000 responses, of which 99% opposed the fracking. The Scottish government then set out its preferred position that it did not support onshore unconventional oil and gas development.

A second consultation began in October 2018 on assessments of the environmental and business impacts of the preferred position.

Today, Mr Wheelhouse said the Scottish government would be clarifying the preferred policy position and its objectives in response to this second consultation. He said:

“We are also taking the opportunity to update our position on the reasonable alternatives to the preferred policy position which were considered as part of the SEA process.”

The minister said it would publish an addendum and invite further comments. Responses would be considered before the final policy position was reached.

“Legislate to stop the industry”

Commenting on the announcement, Friends of the Earth Scotland’s head of campaigns, Mary Church, said:

“Communities on the frontline of this dirty industry who have been waiting for over four years for the Scottish Government to bring its long drawn out process on unconventional oil and gas to an end, now face even further delay. Holyrood has the power to ban fracking – it’s time for the Scottish Government to stop dilly-dallying, have the courage of its convictions and legislate to stop the industry for good.

“The Scottish Government and Parliament have a very clear mandate from the people of Scotland to ban fracking. It was one of the top 5 issues going into the 2016 election, with the SNP elected on a promise to deal with industry, the Scottish Parliament has already voted to ban it and over 60,000 responded to a consultation in 2017 rejecting fracking. A series of subsequent powerful commitments from Nicola Sturgeon and her Ministers have still not resulted in robust, long-term protection against this industry.

“We commissioned a legal opinion from one of Scotland’s leading lawyers which makes it equally clear that Holyrood can and should ban fracking, and that legislating would be a far more robust way to stop the industry and defeat any further legal challenges from the likes of INEOS. We urge Ministers to work together with the other anti-fracking parties to pass a law banning fracking and finally put this issue to bed once and for all.”

Legal challenge

The Scottish government successfully defended its position on fracking last year against a challenge at the Court of Session by Ineos and Reach Coal Seam Gas.

The companies said a ban on fracking was unlawful and claimed damages for an alleged breach of their human rights, saying business interests had been “adversely affected”.

But the Scottish government argued that it had not yet adopted a final position and the concept of an “effective ban” was the language of a press statement.

The judge, Lord Pentland, said the government’s position was legally sound and the preferred policy should stand.

DrillOrDrop invited Ineos to respond to today’s announcement. This post will be updated with any response.

14 replies »

  1. So, an “effective ban” becomes a real ban, and then INEOS can claim!

    No wonder they are delaying.

    • A moratorium can be maintained indefinitely, however the legal decision will end the debate and the threats of costs in a court case once and for all.

      All the claims of “human rights” are a result of the curious standing of a corporation being awarded the bizarre status of a “artificial person” but does not have the same standing of a “natural living person” that being a human being, not an amorphous discorporate non individual of a corporation entity of no living substance.

      That contorted legal person status goes back to 1886 under the 14th amendment of the American Consitution and has not, it is interesting to note been ratified anywhere else except by reference to that case. But of course none of that detracts from the “natural person human rights” of the voters in 2017, which saw about 60,000 responses, of which 99% opposed the fracking proposals.

      Excerpt from “The Theft of Human Rights”, chapter excerpt from Unequal Protection
      Unequal Protection: The rise of corporate dominance and theft of human rights
      by Thom Hartmann

      “This definition suggests at once that it would seem unnecessary to dwell upon, that though a corporation is a person, it is not the same kind of person as a human being, and need not of necessity – nay, in the very nature of things, cannot – enjoy all the rights of such or be governed by the same laws. When the law says, ‘Any person being of sound mind and of the age of discretion may make a will,’ or ‘any person having arrived at the age of majority may marry,’ I presume the most ardent advocate of equality of protection would hardly contend that corporations must enjoy the right of testamentary disposition or of contracting matrimony.”



      If that passes into Scottish Law, then Ineos et al will have to lobby the Scottish legal system to attempt to overturn it.

      And all the very best of luck with that.

      [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

  2. Sheer hypocrisy, Scotland has done well from the North Sea Oil and Gas Industry, ahem the UK has done well from the North Sea Industry. But now we turn our eyes the other way, and expect to really rely on renewables and exports from ahem countries which are benefiting from the wealth, prosperity and energy security of the fossil fuels. We will comsume it but we dont wsnt to explore, drill or produce it!! Hypocrisy at its finest!
    Ladies and Gents, it will have to be produced to be consumed one way or another so lets stop this nimbyism, use the regulations the industry has to produce safely this resource and financially and for security benefit for all the jobs, tax and pensions this industry offers. If you deny it! Then we have certainly have got a problem with world populations set to peak in the next 10-20 years, power stations not set to adapt fast enough to the changing out of gas produced power and the government dawdling on vote for the people from the people, SNP know that a moratorium on banning fracking is a waste of time! If the SNP was in power in the 60’s the UK oil industry would certainly not have got a foot-hold! I weep for the future generations, as the decisions we are going to make today, jeopardises jobs, tax, pensions and populations for the future!
    Paul Wheelhouse take note…

  3. About time John readjusted his portfolio! (Not only Total, quite a number of others.) I understand Sir Jim is looking at one or two.

    But I see UKOG have raised some cash to make new investments. Perhaps they have their eyes on Statoil! LOL.

  4. Just an idea but maybe we could have an onshore gas industry AND an off-shore gas industry AND wind farms AND solar panels – indeed that is government policy, diversified energy sources contribute to energy security.

    I know the issues are complex but to my mind the qdilemma is this. Wind and Solar power are weather dependent and need back-up reliable supplies – that is an undeniable fact. But battery power will remain prohibitively expensive for some years to come – the only feasible back-up is nuclear or a fossil fuel. Nuclear is insufficiently flexible to act as a back-up source which leaves us with gas as the mostly efficient and relatively low carbon source (certainly low pollution) , BUT gas plants cannot be built and maintained economically as just back-up facilities so who will pay to keep them in place? As we move towards the decommissioning of our coal power stations these issues become more urgent.

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