Pressure grows to implement complete ban on fracking

Fracking protests have become a common sight in the last few years
Fracking protests have become a common sight in the last few years

The future of fracking in Scotland is unclear as MSPs voted in favour of an outright ban at Holyrood last week but all SNP members abstained from taking a decision.

A moratorium on fracking was put in place in Scotland last January, but stopped short of a complete veto to allow further consultation and a public health impact assessment to be carried out.

Scottish Labour had tabled an amendment in support of a full ban as part of an environment debate headed by the new cabinet secretary Roseanna Cunningham last week.

After SNP members abstained, the amendment was passed by 32 votes to 29, with Scottish Greens and Liberal Democrats teaming up with Labour to defeat the Conservatives.

The vote does not create a binding policy of fracking and, after the result, Labour MSPs demanded the SNP clarify its position on the fracking issue – would they respect the will of parliament and introduce an outright ban on fracking or ignore the vote completely?

Maria Montinaro, of Concerned Communities of Falkirk, sees the vote as a positive move towards an outright ban.

She said: “The vote was a significant step closer to protecting Scottish communities from unconventional gas extraction in Scotland and is to be applauded.

“Overwhelming scientific and peer reviewed evidence now supports the real-life testimonies of communities living side by side with this industry and was the basis of the New York State ban in 2014.

“The evidence presented by the Broad Alliance of Scottish Communities puts the case very strongly under the Precautionary Principle – this industry is not safe for communities and there can be no alternative but a complete ban in Scotland.

“Ineos’s minimum 400m buffer is derisory while mitigation measures and the imposition of fines following regulation breaches, if detected, are totally unacceptable.

“Especially given the constraints of land mass, population density, extensive underground mine workings, significant geological faulting – not to mention the scale of the industry and its track record around the world.

“Scottish Communities now await the final verdict from our Scottish Government which will determine whether or not our government is for and by the people.”

Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald and Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson both abstained from last week’s vote.

Mr MacDonald said: “This is not the final vote on fracking. The decision on whether fracking will take place in Scotland will be made once the full public health study and the full public consultations have taken place, which is the responsible and proper way to conduct this serious issue.

“I can assure you that unless it can be proven beyond doubt that there is no risk to health, communities or the environment, there will be no fracking or UCG extraction in Scotland.”

Grangemouth petrochemical giant Ineos has invested heavily in fracking over the last year, buying up land in the local area earmarked for drilling.

An Ineos spokesperson said: “The vote yesterday changes very little. A process remains in place in Scotland to further assess scientific, evidence based research before a decision is taken on fracking.

“This has important implications for the people of Scotland and its economy and should not be prejudged before it has reached its conclusion.”