Responding to Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse’s announcement today of the Scottish Government’s proposal to ban fracking, Friends of the Earth Scotland Head of Campaigns Mary Church 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.”

The Minister announced that the existing moratorium would be extended indefinitely using planning and environmental regulation powers to effectively ban the fracking industry. It fell short of committing to passing a law like recent bans in Ireland, Victoria and Maryland, when powers over onshore oil and gas licensing are finally handed over by Westminster.

Church continued:

“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.

On the threat that Brexit negotiations might jeopardise the Scottish Parliament’s powers to ban fracking, Church added:

“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.”

The Scottish Government’s proposal will go to a vote in Parliament, likely soon after recess.
Church said:

“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.”

Notes to Editors

1. The Scottish Government made their announcement to the Parliament today

2. The Scottish Government put a moratorium in place on onshore oil and gas extraction in January 2015 https://foe.scot/press-release/scottish-government-introduces-fracking-moratorium/

It commissioned research on climate change, public health, transport and economic impacts as well as earthquakes and decommissioning http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Business-Industry/Energy/onshoreoilandgas/EvidenceGathering

Our verdict on the Scottish Government’s research studies https://foe.scot/press-release/damning-verdict-on-fracking-from-scottish-government-studies/

3. A four month consultation on fracking closed on 31 May this year, to which over 60,000 people responded http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Business-Industry/Energy/onshoreoilandgas/ConsultationAndEngagement

4. In June 2016 the Scottish Parliament voted to ban fracking when Labour, the Greens and Liberal Democrats voted in favour of a ban, the Conservatives against, while the SNP abstained https://foe.scot/press-release/scottish-parliament-votes-to-ban-fracking/

5. Powers over onshore oil and gas licensing are devolved to the Scottish Parliament by way of the Scotland Act 2016, and is on the long list of devolved areas affected by Brexit negotiations. Even if Westminster took back control of aspects of these powers under the EU Withdrawal Bill, the Scottish Government could still use planning and environmental regulation powers to stop the fracking industry https://foe.scot/press-release/brexit-powers-threat-environment/

6. Short timeline of campaign

Spring 2011: Six years of campaigning kicks off as Dart Energy announce plans for biggest coalbed methane project in UK at Airth near Falkirk
April 2014: Public Inquiry held into Dart Energy’s plans for CBM at Airth
Summer 2014: UK Government announce plans to remove owners rights to say no to fracking under their homes and launch 14th onshore licensing round including 20,000 km2 in Scotland. Meanwhile the British Geological Survey publish shale gas resource estimates for Central Belt.
August 2014: Ineos announce move in shale gas exploration with purchase of 51% share in PEDL 133 in Falkirk
Autumn-Winter 2014: Growing anti-fracking movement organises huge demonstrations and street stalls engaging thousands of people across Scotland
January 2015: Scottish Government announce a moratorium on shale gas and coalbed methane
April 2016: Labour and Lib Dems joins Greens in calling for an outright ban on fracking, and the First Minister says she is ‘highly sceptical’ about fracking
November 2016: Claudia Beamish MSP launches her private member’s Bill to Ban Fracking
November 2016: Scottish Government publish research on health, climate, economics, transport, earthquakes and decommissioning
May 2017: Over 60,000 responses to Scottish Government consultation on fracking

You can view an interactive version of this timeline at https://foe.scot/scotland-ban-fracking/

7. Friends of the Earth Scotland is
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.