A FOUR-MONTH-LONG public consultation on the use of fracking was launched yesterday by the Scottish Government with a final decision on the controversial gas extraction technique expected to be made by the end of the year.

Ministers have not set out a preferred position or policy in the document, stating it is taking a “cautious, evidence-led approach”.

A moratorium on unconventional oil and gas development in Scotland has been in place since January 2015.

It prevents hydraulic fracturing for shale oil and gas, as well as coal bed methane extraction, from taking place while the Government investigates evidence on its potential impact.

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “The Scottish Government has sought to present impartial, independent information on unconventional oil and gas in order to encourage informed dialogue and debate.

“This consultation does not set out or advocate a preferred Scottish Government position or policy. Instead, we want to create space for dialogue and allow different perspectives to come forward.

“Once the consultation closes and the responses have been independently analysed, we will then consider the full range of evidence, and make our recommendation.

“In doing so, we will give careful consideration to the extraction methods for both shale oil and gas, and coal bed methane. We will then ask members of the Scottish Parliament to vote on our recommendation, and we will come to a final decision by the end of 2017 on whether or not unconventional oil and gas has a role in Scotland’s energy mix.”

Environmental organisations have called for fracking to be banned.

Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, said: “Any decision to access more fossil fuel reserves by using fracking would fly in the face of the Scottish Government’s much-welcomed ambition of securing half of all of Scotland’s energy needs from renewables by 2030.

“When given the choice, opinion polling tells us that the public always backs clean renewables over polluting fossil fuels. We are confident that by the end of this consultation the public will give fracking a resounding thumbs down.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland head of campaigns Mary Church said: “No state has had a moratorium on fracking, looked at the evidence, and decided it’s a good idea.

“Support for fracking is at an all-time low. People just don’t want this dirty, dangerous industry.

“We will be encouraging people to respond in huge numbers and are confident that they will give a clear signal to the Scottish Government to ban fracking for good.”

The consultation will run until May 31 and can be viewed on the Scottish Government’s consultation website.

Scottish Labour environment spokeswoman Claudia Beamish, who has introduced her own Member’s Bill to ban fracking in Scotland, said the Government is further prolonging making a decision on whether to impose a ban.

She said: “Voters going to the polls in May’s important local elections still won’t know the SNP’s position on fracking. It’s time for nationalist ministers to get off the fence and back Labour’s call for a ban on fracking in Scotland.”

Green MSP Mark Ruskell said: “The evidence to ban fracking already exists because we have more fossil fuels than we can burn if we want to limit climate change.

“A ban on fracking will allow us to focus on stable jobs in energy efficiency and renewables, and it’s vital that communities take part in the consultation to make their feelings known because this could be the beginning of the end for fracking in Scotland.”

Conservative energy spokesman Alexander Burnett said the SNP had prolonged a decision because it did not want to “lose votes in May’s council elections”.

He added: “This is another spineless decision by the SNP on the topic of fracking.

“It should be looking at the potential for an economic boom and a more secure supply of power for people in Scotland.”



AS part of the Scottish Government’s approach to onshore shale gas extraction, the new consultation is very welcome. It will give people their say on how best to proceed with regard to the future of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

For Holyrood, fracking is proving a thorny issue. While the First Minister has said she is highly sceptical, Ruth Davidson the leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, responding to central policy edicts from London, wants to frack apart Scotland’s fragile shale beds.

Paul Wheelhouse, Scotland’s Energy Minister published six reports on fracking late last year. Covering a range of issues related to onshore shale gas extraction, these reports, along with an independent and growing body of evidence, highlight a series of economic, environmental and public health concerns.

Fracking for gas is a risky business. It involves drilling rigs and other heavy machinery, underground explosions, and pumping a sauce comprising fresh water, sand and hundreds of tonnes of chemicals into the ground. Many hundreds of lorry journeys are required to deliver onsite, for example: drilling rigs, compressors and other equipment; nasty, industrial-strength chemicals such as hydrochloric acid; the millions of gallons of fresh water required to frack one well, and; onsite storage silos. And then there is the removal of toxic sludge for offsite decontamination, and so on.

The entire life-cycle of fracking poses significant risks to land, air, water and public health. In terms of global warming, fugitive methane emissions is another issue of significant concern, as many wells either fail immediately or at some point.

In terms of the economics and according to the report written for the Scottish Government by KPMG, the financial case for pursuing fracking is very weak. This report revealed total spend, jobs created and tax take to be negligible. Given the economics, there appears to be no financial rationale for Scotland to pursue onshore shale gas extraction.

Be under no illusion. The aim of the onshore shale gas industry is to make a quick buck. Those with business savvy will then quickly move on, as experience from the US tells us that it soon becomes a debt-laden industry. You and me, and other taxpayers, pick up the final health, environmental and at times financial tabs. A significant issue in the US has been who picks up the decommissioning and clean-up bills when companies move on or go bust, as has been the case.

In the UK, this is a regulatory issue that has yet to be adequately addressed.

The Scottish government, in partnership with business and the general public, now more than ever has the opportunity to cement Scotland’s place as leading the world in transiting to a lower-carbon economy. The Scottish government needs to stay the course and set out even more ambitious climate change targets and continue to place renewables delivery firmly at the heart of Scotland’s vision for a forward-looking and modern society.

What Scotland now needs is a truly integrative approach to transport, electricity and heating that ends our fixation with fossil fuels and decarbonises the economy.

The time is now right for Scotland to say: “BanFracking”. Ethically and morally, it is the right thing to do for the people and environment of Scotland, and also the climate and planet upon which humanity depends.