The Scottish Government has banned fracking, says Energy Minister

Published by James Orr on

October 6th, 2017

The Scottish Government has banned fracking following public outcry over the environmental risks and health hazards linked to the controversial industry.

Earlier this week, Scotland’s Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse declared that the January 2015 moratorium on fracking will now be made permanent.

Fracking, officially known as hydraulic fracturing, involves the pumping of a high-pressure mix of water, chemicals and sand into the rock to create openings so that gas can seep out into deep wells.

Scottish Analysis

Minister Wheelhouse said that the Scottish Government has undertaken “one of the most far-reaching examinations of unconventional oil and gas ever carried out”.

The “evidence-based” decision was informed by a number of scientific and economic reports as well as a four-month public consultation period during which over 60,000 responses were submitted, he said.

The Minister added that the decision was based on “the interests of the environment, our economy and public health” as well as the “overwhelming” public opinion.

“Fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland” he concluded.

An overwhelming 99 per cent of the consultation responses opposed fracking, with concerns raised over the potential negative impacts on climate, biodiversity and health.

Industry and NGO Reaction

Ineos, a privately owned oil and gas company with considerable interest in Scotland, disagreed with the decision.

The managing director of Ineos’ Shale division, Tom Pickering,  said that Scotland will now “miss out on the numerous economic and employment benefits” of the industry, including an estimated 3,100 jobs.

He added that the decision “sends a clear and negative message to any future investors” and that England will “reap the benefits” of a multi-billion euro industry.

Mary Church of Friends of the Earth Scotland, however, said that it’s “hard to see how the Scottish Government could do anything other than announce an outright ban”.

She said that there will be “huge celebration and much relief” for the anti-fracking movement “who have been working for a ban these last six years”.

Although the fracking ban has been put into immediate effect, a parliamentary vote will need to take place in the near future in order to put the ban into legislation.

The Scottish parliament must “commit to passing a law to ban the fracking industry for good”, Ms Church added.

She said that the Government has already voted once to ban fracking and that FoE Scotland “fully expect it to do so again” as Labour, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats are all “outspoken in their opposition to this industry.”

If passed by the Parliament, Scotland will officially become the fourth European country to completely ban this gas exploration technique, following in the footsteps of France, Bulgaria and Ireland.

President Michael D Higgins signed a bill banning onshore fracking in the Republic of Ireland into law last July.

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James Orr

James is The Green New's Biodiversity Reporter and a wildlife and landscape photographer based in Dublin. James has a BA in Zoology from TCD.