SCOTLAND’S green campaigners celebrated today’s historic ban on fracking – but urged the Holyrood government to act quickly to ensure the decision cannot be scuppered by a Westminster led Brexit.
More than 60,000 people responded to the Scottish Government’s decision over fracking in Scotland – with 99% arguing against its use.
Environmental groups said it was now essential to ensure that voice is respected as plans are made to debate it further in Holyrood.
The announcement effectively acts as a ban on fracking through the planning process, but currently stops short of legislation outlawing it.
Friends of the Earth Scotland Head of Campaigns Mary Church said: “Given that the UK Government has only just devolved fracking licensing powers to Holyrood, it is quite unlikely that it plans to take them back.
“However, the Scottish Government and Parliament should act as soon as the powers are handed over to ban fracking in case this most obvious and powerful route to stop the industry is jeopardised by Brexit negotiations.”
She added: “We urge the Scottish Government to go further than relying on planning powers to give effect to this ban, and instead commit to passing a law to ban the fracking industry for good.
“There’s no doubt that when onshore oil and gas licensing powers are finally handed over it will be within the legislative competence of the Parliament to ban fracking, and that there is a powerful mandate to do so.
“The measures announced today are the right interim approach until licensing powers are technically transferred to Holyrood.”
“Holyrood has already voted once to ban fracking and we fully expect it to do so again, with Labour, Greens and Liberal Democrats all outspoken in their opposition to this industry.
“We call on parties to push beyond the Scottish Government’s present proposal and work for a legislative ban.
“Legislating to ban fracking provides the strongest protection for communities and the environment, and sends a clear message about the need to leave fossil fuels in the ground in the fight against climate change.”
And she hailed all those who campaigned towards today’s announcement.
She said: “This is a victory for the environment and for local communities fighting fracking.
“The Scottish Government’s decision today to ban fracking will be warmly welcomed across the country and around the world.
“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.
“Having put a moratorium in place more than two years ago, evaluated the evidence and consulted the people of Scotland, the Scottish Government has reached the right and sensible conclusion that the fracking industry must be banned to avoid potentially devastating impacts to people’s health, the climate and our natural environment.
“Over 60,000 people responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on fracking, the second largest number to engage in a consultation in the history of the devolved Parliament, with 99% calling for a ban.
“This shows the real strength of feeling against this dirty industry in Scotland.”
Dr Sam Gardner, Acting Director of WWF Scotland, also welcomed today’s move, saying: “It’s excellent news the Scottish Government has listened to the thousands of people, campaigners, and politicians across the country who have been calling for a permanent ban to fracking.
“The climate science is clear. The vast majority of fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground. It’s fantastic Scottish Ministers agree that we need to start placing them off limits.”
Elisabeth Whitebread, Energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said it was a “huge win” for the campaigners.
And she said it proved Scotland was leading the way over energy policy.
She said: “The Scottish Government ban on fracking is a huge win for thousands of people who have campaigned against fracking for six years.
“Unlike Westminster, Holyrood is listening to public opinion.
“We already have more gas than we can afford to burn, and as well as damaging the climate, fracking will cause local noise, air and light pollution.
“By announcing an outright ban on this new fossil fuel industry in Scotland, and using a fair process to reach their decision, the SNP Government is leading the way towards the clean energy system that people want.
“The Conservative Government in Westminster is now alone in backing fracking and looks very isolated indeed. Across England, growing numbers of local people will continue to oppose fracking and the failure of democracy on this issue.
“Conservatives in Westminster should stop chasing fracked gas, that we don’t need, and the overwhelming majority don’t want.”
Dr Maggie Keegan, Head of Policy, Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “Ruling out fracking in Scotland will help meet our international obligations on climate change.
“We need to focus our resources on developing renewable energy and other low carbon technologies, and restoring natural carbon stores including woodlands and peatlands, rather than investing in another fossil fuel.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat energy spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP said it wasn’t before time.
He said: “The Scottish Government may have taken the scenic route to get there, but it is right to join the growing consensus in declaring that fracking has no place in Scotland.”
The Scottish Green Party also said the move was on track.
However not everyone is happy.
Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said: “This is a short-sighted and economically damaging decision which is nothing more than a bid to appease the green elements of the pro-independence movement.
“According to the Scottish Government’s own scientists, the extraction of shale from Scotland, with the right safety checks, could be done safely.
“It could also support thousands of jobs and deliver economic benefits to communities.
“With the struggles the North Sea is facing, there could hardly be a better time to be getting on with this.
“Instead, the Scottish Government is killing this off while other parts of the world press ahead with fracking.
“There’s also a huge hypocrisy from the SNP here.
“It’s happy to receive shale from the US to refine at Grangemouth – a major industry in itself – yet doesn’t want to have that technology here.”
Gary Smith, the GMB union’s Scotland secretary, accused the Scottish Government of being “hypercritical”.
He said: “Scotland is importing a huge amount of shale gas from Trump’s America.
“If the government wants to be consistent, it will now ban shale gas imports, threatening a huge number of job losses.
“The government has failed to explain where the two million households in Scotland using gas to heat their homes will get gas from in the future.”
Want to learn more? Read: Friends of the Earth Scotland – Scotland to ban fracking
Image credits: cc Anita Starzycka