Scottish government says no to Whitehall fracking plans

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Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow and Co-convener of the Scottish Greens, is welcoming comments by Energy Minister Fergus Ewing that the Scottish Government intends to resist a plan by the UK Government to allow fracking companies the right to run pipelines under private land.

The UK Department for Energy and Climate Change’s proposal would remove the existing requirement on operators to seek permission from each home or land owner it wishes to drill or frack for shale gas underneath. This means not only would peoples’ rights to withhold permission to frack underneath their homes be removed, but even the right to be notified about it.

The plans are intended to apply across the whole of the UK with Whitehall using reserved powers to implement the changes in the devolved administrations.  The Scottish Government has today indicated that changes of such significance should be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Greens called for the proposal to be blocked earlier this year.

The Infrastructure Bill put forward at Westminster by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government, and supported by Labour, would overrule trespass laws, enabling drilling firms to install pipes to transport gas without landowners’ permission.

A huge swathe of Scotland, from Argyll to Aberdeenshire and from Ayrshire to East Lothian, has been earmarked as ripe for fracking by the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“Greens have been calling for this proposal to be blocked in Scotland, so these comments from Fergus Ewing are a good step. Holyrood should reject the UK Infrastructure Bill when it gets the chance to do so by way of legislative consent motions.

“Meantime Scottish ministers should continue to consider the use of existing regulations to ban unconventional gas completely. We are risking our economy, not just our environment, if we encourage yet more fossil fuel extraction.

“Communities such as Airth near Falkirk and Canonbie in Dumfries and Galloway are already facing a battle against gas drilling. Given the Scottish Government’s failure to support a ban on fracking or clear buffer zones, and the First Minister’s description of shale gas as an opportunity, many other communities across Scotland will remain deeply concerned at these unwanted, unnecessary developments.”

Commenting on the Scottish Government’s announcement, Friends of the Earth Scotland Director Dr Richard Dixon said:

“We are delighted that the Scottish Government is saying no to UK Government plans to remove people’s rights to stop, or even be notified about, shale gas fracking underneath their homes.  The UK Government is falling over itself to get fracking going, all credit to Scottish Ministers for having more respect for Scottish communities.

“The Scottish Government’s more cautious approach to unconventional gas extraction is good news for the people of Scotland and bad news for any operators hoping to make a quick buck before the shale bubble bursts.  The United Kingdom government has been completely gung-ho for fracking the whole country but this puts a spoke in the works because it won’t be able to make this change in Scotland.

“This is a very clear message to the fracking industry that Scotland is a place where it will be much harder to do business.”

Dr Dixon continued:

“Unconventional gas exploitation isn’t some far off prospect that gives Government time to play with to get things right. Communities in Scotland are facing commercial coalbed methane extraction on their doorsteps in the coming months.

“People across the UK from Balcombe to Belcoo are already seeking to protect their homes and communities from this dangerous, damaging industry. The UK Government’s plans to take away people’s rights to object are an extremely worrying development.”

“The Scottish Government should say no to the unconventional gas industry altogether and focus instead on making the most of our abundant, clean, renewable energy resources.”