We understand that there is a clause in your contract to acquire Dart Energy that enables you to ditch the deal if planning permission for the company’s flagship commercial coalbed methane development at Airth is not granted. A wise move on your part.

No doubt you have done your research before proposing the buy-out, but we thought we would draw a few things to your attention, in case you are out of touch with what’s going on here in Scotland.

There is huge opposition to the Airth coalbed methane development, both locally and nationally.  Over 2,500 individual objections were lodged, with 9 community councils representing over 70,000 people, a community council forum representing 20,000 people and 2 local authorities calling on the Scottish government to refuse the application. Dart might well have anticipated planning permission for the development by the end of 2012.  As things stand, the Inquiry rumbles on, with a number of loose ends still to be tied up, and the Reporters expected to start finalising their decision in October at the very soonest. You will be aware that it is by no means certain what the outcome of this decision will be.

Dart’s other Scottish plans at Canonbie, have similarly attracted strong opposition, and are currently the subject of a complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman about the way the original planning applications were handled. Further, Dart’s current proposal for coalbed methane extraction at Canonbie differs significantly from what planning permission was granted for making it highly likely that, should you go through with this deal, you will have to start from scratch, but this time, facing a well informed and active local community.

It is not much more welcoming at the national level. The Scottish Government have taken a much more cautious approach to date than their Whitehall counterparts, to quote Energy Minister Fergus Ewing:

“The gung-ho approach of the UK Government to the whole issue of unconventional oil and gas contrasts with our approach.”

The Scottish Government has taken the opportunity presented by an overhaul of Scottish Planning Policy to introduce more stringent requirements on operators wanting to do business north of the border, including a new requirement for risk assessment based buffer zones. It has also outright opposed UK plans to allow fracking companies to drill underneath peoples’ homes without first seeking their permission or even notifying them.

Add into the mix that fact that the British Geological Survey study of Scotland’s Midland Valley (otherwise known as the Central Belt, the most densely populated part of the country) found only moderate resources, and warned of significant uncertainties due to complex geological formations and lack of seismic data, and the future for shale gas companies wanting to get in on the game in Scotland does not look very bright.

Scotland is blessed with abundant renewable energy potential and we have the most ambitious climate legislation in the world. Dart Energy and IGas’ plans to open up a new frontier of fossil fuels fly in the face of climate science and common sense. So perhaps you should think twice before you vote.