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Scottish government extends moratorium banning fracking indefinitely

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Yesterday, Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse confirmed that the Scottish Government has decided to extend a moratorium outlawing fracking indefinitely. This moratorium on the controversial gas extraction technique in Scotland has been in effect since January 2015 while the government consulted experts and studies to determine the impact of fracking.

“Fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland” said Wheelhouse bluntly.

Later this month the Scottish Parliament will officially approve the measure after a debate and voting period that plans to be merely a formality. In the meantime, Wheelhouse plans to use the governments planning regulations to make the moratorium permanent.

Last year the Scottish Government received a report that concluded that fracking would result in a number of environmental hazards. A public consultation on the issue resulted in more than 60,000 responses from Scottish citizens with 99% opposed to fracking.

The ban was first proposed as far back as 2014 by Green MSP Alison Johnston who, at the time, faced opposition from both the Labour and Liberal democrats. Both parties have since changed their positions.

Mary Church, head of campaigns for Friends of the Earth Scotland, called it a victory going on to say “This is a huge win for the anti-fracking movement, particularly for those on the frontline of this dirty industry here in Scotland, who have been working for a ban these last six years.”

One of the few dissenters, Conservative MSP Dean Lockhart, castigated the decision citing the economic benefits of fracking. Some reports estimated fracking would bring in additional £4.6 billion into the economy in addition to thousands of jobs.

In a comment Lockhart stated Scotland is being “left behind” and “this much-needed economic boost and these jobs will now be created outside of Scotland, thanks to the SNP.” (The SNP is the Scottish National Party, Scotland’s largest political party by membership and the one currently holding the majority voting power in parliament.)

Fracking firm Ineos commented that the move marks “a sad day for those of us who believe in evidence-led decision making.” Tom Pickering, Ineos Shale’s operations director stated “The Scottish Government has turned its back on a potential manufacturing and jobs renaissance and lessened Scottish academia’s place in the world by ignoring its finding.”

“We lead the world in exploration safety but I fear we will start to see large numbers of Scottish workers leaving the country to find work as the North Sea oil and gas industry continues to decline.”

More criticism came from supporters of the move who claim extending the moratorium permanently isn’t enough. Green MSP Mark Ruskell has called for additional legislation confirming the fracking ban citing that moratoriums are “legally shaky and open to challenge by large companies such as Ineos.”

Echoing that sentiment, the Labour parties environment spokeswoman Claudia Beamish called for support of her private members bill which would harshly enshrine the ban in legislation. In a comment she warned “Extending the moratorium indefinitely, whilst welcome, is not as strong as a full legal ban and could be overturned at any point at the whim of a future minister.”

Article written by HEI contributor Kevin Abbott.

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