SCOTLAND is a world leader with its comprehensive approach to assessing the hazards and public health implications of fracking, according to experts.

And in the first study of its type, the team at Stirling University says our “comprehensive” approach sets a precedent for other countries.

They studied how the Scottish Government analysed the potential impact of unconventional oil and gas extraction (UOGE), which includes hydraulic fracturing – fracking – for shale gas, coalbed methane extraction, and underground coal gasification.

The team compared Scotland’s approach with 14 assessments around the world, including in the US, Australia, and Germany, and found that the most extensive assessment was carried out here.

This focussed on key factors including public health, climate change and economic impact.

The report concludes: “In terms of breadth, depth and scale, this approach appears more detailed than any undertaken to date globally.”

Supporters of UOGE believe it is a major source of global energy that can boost economies and generate greater tax revenues without posing a risk to public health.

However, opponents argue it is an immediate and long-term threat to global, national and regional public health and climate, and highlight the potential for air, water and soil pollution; seismic activity; noise and radiation hazards; and risks to wellbeing and mental health.

Professor Andrew Watterson in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, and Dr William Dinan, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, carried out the research, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, "Public Health and Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction Including Fracking: Global Lessons from a Scottish Government Review".

Professor Watterson, head of the Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, said: “Scotland is the only country to produce such a nation-wide assessment. The findings indicate that the Scottish Government approach was one of the most thorough, if not the most thorough, conducted globally.”