The Scottish Government has today (Thursday 3 October) announced a final position of ‘no support’ for fracking. Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse confirmed in Parliament that the Government’s position will be upheld by policy levers rather than the legislative ban that frontline communities and campaigners have long called for.

The decision comes almost 5 years after the moratorium was first put in place and on the second anniversary of a statement to Parliament in October 2017 when Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse announced an ‘effective ban’ on the industry. That position was subsequently exposed as having no legal force following a court case by petrochemical giant INEOS.

In response to an initial Government consultation in 2017, over 60,000 people said the industry should be stopped, while the Scottish Parliament voted for a ban on fracking in 2016. Today’s confirmation of no support for the industry would not have happened without massive grassroots movement against fracking.

Friends of the Earth Scotland Head of Campaigns Mary Church said:

“It is of course very welcome that Ministers have announced they are keeping the indefinite moratorium on fracking in place, but frustrating that today’s decision falls short of the full legal ban that would put the issue to bed once and for all.

“The inclusion of the policy of no support for fracking in the National Planning Framework would certainly strengthen the present position, but the Energy Minister acknowledged that he can’t confirm this will happen before the next Holyrood elections, which could see a new Government with a different approach to fracking in power. The Minister indicated that the door hadn’t been closed on legislating to prohibit fracking if evidence that further action was needed arose, and we urge the Parliamentary parties who are opposed to the industry to stay vigilant to the need and opportunity for this.

“Clearly the Government haven’t gone as far as they should have, but the fact that there has been no fracking in Scotland for the last five years is a huge victory for campaigners and communities across Scotland.

“The Scottish Government has announced a climate emergency, and a growing movement is demanding it starts acting like it means it. That includes taking a much tougher stance with big, polluting corporations, ending its support for new oil and gas and using the powers it has to pass strong laws in the Scottish Parliament to drive the transformative change we need.

“The community at Airth who have had a planning application for coalbed methane hanging over them since 2012 will be relieved to hear that the process to determine it can be moved forward, and clearly that application must now be swiftly rejected.

“We would like to thank the Greens and Labour, who have been instrumental in keeping the issue under the spotlight in Parliament and key to pushing the Scottish Government to take a strong stance on fracking”

Notes for Editors

1. Details of the Energy Minister’s Statement at: https://news.gov.scot/news/fracking-incompatible-with-climate-policy

2. Today’s statement comes at the end of a protracted process which saw the Scottish Government conduct several consultations on unconventional oil and gas. The latest of these was an ‘addendum’ to a full strategic environmental assessment consultation on its ‘preferred policy position of no support’ for the fracking industry. The addendum consultation, published in March this year, kicked a final decision on fracking into autumn.

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
June 2016: Labour, Greens and Lib Dems vote for a ban on fracking in Parliament. SNP abstention sees motion carried, meaning Holyrood formally supports a ban on 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
October 2017: Scottish Government announce an ‘effective ban’ on fracking
February 2018: powers over onshore oil and gas licensing, devolved under Scotland Act 2016 are finally transferred to Holyrood
June 2018: Court of Session rules there is no legally enforceable ban in place following a legal challenge from INEOS and Reach CSG
June 2018: Scottish Government grant 1 year extension to INEOS’s fracking license PEDL 162, in first use of newly devolved powers over onshore licensing
October 2018: Scottish Government published a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of its ‘preferred policy position of no support for Unconventional Oil and Gas’
March 2019: FoES publish legal advice from Aidan O’Neill QC that holds Scottish Parliament can and should pass law to ban fracking
March 2019: Scottish Government delay final decision on fracking, publishing an ‘addendum consultation’ to the SEA consultation
June 2019: Scottish Government grant further 1 year extension to INEOS’s fracking license PEDL 162
September 2019: new Climate Change legislation will require Ministers to report on their policies and proposals for onshore and offshore oil and gas extraction, including fracking, in plans to deliver emissions reduction targets
October 2019: Energy Minister makes statement to Parliament on final decision on unconventional oil and gas extraction

3. 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.