Test drilling to go ahead in Falkirk area despite fracking ban

Protestors made their feelings known at the Hands Over Our Forth event on Sunday. Picture: Scott Louden

Protestors made their feelings known at the Hands Over Our Forth event on Sunday. Picture: Scott Louden

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Angry protestors lined the Forth Road Bridge last weekend after learning the recently extended fracking ban did not cover test drilling.

Last week, Scottish ministers slapped a ban on underground coal gasification (UCG) to run alongside the existing moratorium on onshore unconventional oil and gas, which includes hydraulic fracturing – or fracking.

However, it was announced shortly afterwards firms like Ineos and Cluff Natural Resources would still be allowed to undertake test drilling.

Maria Montinaro, of Concerned Communities for Falkirk, said: “We welcome the moratorium on UCG, but the idea test drilling is allowed to proceed during the moratorium is abhorrent to communities.

“If sufficient evidence exists for New York State to impose a ban why do we need to compromise the integrity of the earth beneath our feet by drilling test wells across Scotland?

“Shouldn’t the logical step be to assess the existing mounting evidence first and, if like a growing a number of other nations we find it overwhelmingly supports a ban then we go no further.”

The Scottish Government has already announced an extensive programme of evidence gathering on fracking before it takes its final decision on the matter in 2017.

Falkirk MP John McNally said: “We need to find new ways to keep the lights on in our homes, but I also need some guarantees regarding how this kind of technology would impact the worldwide reputation of the purity of Scottish water, our crops and produce. Not to mention our tourism.”

The ban on UCG impacts Cluff’s proposals for the Firth of Forth near Kincardine and the firm stated it hoped the Scottish Government would reach a positive conclusion on the potential of UCG as quickly as possible.

Algy Cluff, chief executive officer, said: “We have made significant investment in the UCG project at the Firth of Forth and believe the benefits the UCG process would bring to Scotland in terms of jobs, economic value and energy security are too great to be missed.”

The issue of shale gas is on the agenda at the SNP conference starting in Aberdeen tomorrow (Friday) and Ineos, which has a major interest in fracking, will be there to make its case in favour.

Ineos director Tom Pickering stated fracking represented a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity for Scotland and would create jobs and boost the economy.