INEOS, owned by billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, resident in Switzerland, has commenced proceedings via the Scottish courts to sue the Scottish Government over its ban on fracking (Judge rules Ineos can sue ministers over recent fracking ban, The National, February 24).

To be precise, two of his companies, Ineos Upstream and Reach Coal Seam Gas, won both the right to a judicial review and to potentially sue the Scottish Government for a claim to damages under human rights laws.

We should all be very worried!

It is a remarkable situation that Scotland, in union within the UK, has vast oil and gas reserves which, almost in its entirety, are exported for processing into finished product elsewhere.

The last thing we need in the Scottish economy is an industry which, as a minimum, is highly questionable on environmental grounds. Based on the relative absence of a benefit from “downstream” processing from our existing oil and gas wealth, why would anyone believe that permitting fracking across the former Scottish coal fields (closed and abandoned in the 1980s despite there being 800-plus years of known reserves) will be of any benefit whatsoever to Scotland or her people?

I may be overly cynical but I suspect that there is an “unseen hand” at work here.

We know that when oil and gas were first discovered in the North Sea, Bernard Ingham, personal secretary to Margaret Thatcher, successfully drew up a plan to reposition the trajectory of the Scottish Border into the North Sea. This was directed much further north by north-east and saw a significant area of sea bed re-allocated to England.

At the same time he is also thought to have persuaded her to agree to the Shetland Islands Council retaining 1p per barrel of oil landed at their storage facilities on the islands. A right that still exists to this day and one that, despite it sounding a small sum, over 40 years has vastly improved the facilities enjoyed there by the islanders.

However, he and Mrs Thatcher were not driven by altruism. This was “positioning”. The SNP were in the ascendancy and the ploy was divisive. The proposition being that if Scotland ever voted for independence, the UK Government would encourage Shetlanders to stay within the Union, thus robbing the Scottish Exchequer of the now vast oil revenue potential of the fields west of the islands.

I am no lawyer, so I do not pretend to know what is the objective of the judicial review. It surely is within the rights of a democratically elected government of Scotland to decide to ban a process which is potentially damaging to our natural environment. Hopefully our Scottish courts will uphold that right.

To also threaten to sue using human rights legislation is equally baffling! Since when did a corporation acquire “human” rights? Surely these are rights available only to living and breathing homo sapiens?

That aside, the human right we should be concerned about, and hopefully our Scottish courts will support us in, is the right to live in a clean environment. As I understand it, currently, the shale oil gas being imported to Grangemouth comes from relatively sparsely populated areas of North America. If Ineos wins a case to frack here in Scotland then that is a very different proposition.

The reserves here are in our most densely populated areas running right through the now-abandoned coal seems across the entire Central Belt from Cockenzie to Lanarkshire.

One can only speculate about the damage that such irresponsible commercial activities could have on our country and the local population.

Ian Stewart
Isle of Skye