SCOTLAND has a world-leading “comprehensive” approach to assessing the hazards and health risks of fracking and has set a precedent for other countries, according to a team of experts.

A University of Stirling team considered how the Scottish Government analysed the potential impacts of unconventional oil and gas extraction (UOGE), which includes fracking for shale gas, coalbed methane extraction, and underground coal gasification.

In the first study of its kind, they compared the approach to 14 assessments worldwide, including the US, Australia, and Germany, and found that Scotland carried out the most extensive assessment focussing on key factors including public health, climate change and economic impact.

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

One of Scotland’s leading energy experts, Professor Peter Strachan, of Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, told the National: “What I found particularly revealing is that the UK case for fracking is based entirely on outdated reports and arguments.

“It has been overtaken by a phalanx of public opinion in Lancashire and Yorkshire and elsewhere, and further by high quality academic research that challenges the proposition that onshore fracking can be regulated safely.”

Supporters believe that UOGE is a major source of global energy that can boost economies and employment and generate greater tax revenues without any significant 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.

The Scottish Government controls planning and environmental pollution regulation in Scotland but workplace health and safety remains under Westminster’s jurisdiction. The UK Government is also responsible for licensing gas exploration and development.

There has been no large-scale UOGE onshore in Scotland and, last year, MSPs voted to endorse Holyrood’s effective ban on fracking after a two-year moratorium.

The new research, by Professor Andrew Watterson in Stirling’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, and Dr William Dinan, of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, compared Holyrood’s approach with 13 other assessments in the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia and England.

They concluded that the Scottish Government carried out a “comprehensive review” of public health, climate change, economic impacts, transport, geology and decommissioning, and that the public health impact assessment was underpinned by “a rigorous and transparent examination of existing scientific literature”.

Watterson 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.”

The academics say Scotland’s approach will inform global policymakers, politicians, industry, regulators and civil society.

Dinan said: “The approach used in Scotland should be largely transferable globally, despite differences in energy needs, energy policies, geology and water resources, demography, planning and regulatory laws.”

A Scottish Government spokesman welcomed the report, adding: “We also welcome the fact it considers our work to be internationally-leading, which others can draw lessons from.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES) said: “The ban on fracking in Scotland is an inspiration to communities still fighting this dirty industry around the world.”