Fracking – More pressure on Scottish Government
Fracking remains the story that won’t go away for the Scottish Government.
After a long-running battle for the release of the official record of the First Minister’s meeting with Ineos, the Scottish Government has revealed more information. However, key passages remain redacted after the Information Commissioner refused to order full disclosure. The Scottish Government argued that their “candour” would be affected if details of their discussions were revealed
Patrick Harvie for the Scottish Greens said: “Communities across Scotland are being left in limbo by the Scottish Government, who instead of discussing fracking with the likes of Ineos should be using their existing powers to turn the moratorium into a ban now.”
That was also the line from Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale at this weeks FMQ. She challenged the First Minister to back her pledge to ban fracking in Scotland. She said:
“The SNP say fracking is bad. They have imposed a temporary freeze. A big report has been ordered. But it looks like they are going to go ahead and do it anyway. All across the country SNP candidates are telling voters that there will be no fracking under the SNP. The same people who promised Scots they’d scrap the council tax.”
“Scottish Labour will go into the election with a very clear manifesto commitment. We will oppose fracking. A moratorium is not an outright ban; it’s only a temporary stoppage. Her maybes aye, maybes naw response can mean only one thing – Nicola Sturgeon plans to give the green light if she is re-elected in May.”
Ministers have announced three controversial pieces of research into fracking, fuelling fears the Government will back the disputed energy extraction method after the election. Energy Minister Fergus Ewing promised to commission a full public health impact assessment, conduct further work into planning guidance, and look at tightening environmental regulation.
There was further embarrassment for ministers over this research when they gave a £36,000 contract to the Edinburgh firm Ramboll Environ to study the effects of increased traffic around drilling rigs fracking for shale gas under central Scotland. However, the deal was abruptly ditched when it was discovered that Ramboll’s senior consultant on the environmental impacts of fracking has repeatedly made it plain on social media that she is “backing fracking”.
If that wasn’t enough, the spin lines for MSPs were leaked to The Herald, showing how much pressure they are under from constituents. This followed allegations from campaigning groups that the SNP was “rigging” its spring conference agenda by excluding a motion calling for a complete ban on unconventional gas and fracking.
Commenting on the omission of the motion put forward by at least 20 SNP party branches, Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “It is disgraceful that the SNP have rigged the agenda of the spring conference to avoid a debate that would embarrass the leadership.
Labour’s Sarah Boyack MSP said: “It is no surprise that SNP members are starting to get worried about their Party’s position on fracking. The SNP Government is desperate to kick this issue into the long grass until after the Scottish Parliament elections.