This afternoon Energy Minister Fergus Ewing laid out the Scottish Government’s latest policy on unconventional gas and fracking, introducing a moratorium on the industry in Scotland while a full health impact assessment and public consultation is carried out.

Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:

“Fergus Ewing’s announcement today is a huge victory for the communities, individuals and groups who have been campaigning to stop this dirty industry in Scotland. This moratorium is a very big nail in the coffin for the unconventional gas and fracking industry in Scotland. Any serious examination of the mounting evidence will inevitably lead to a ban. The Scottish Government has acted decisively today to protect communities across the country and the environment from this unnecessary industry.

“It is great news that Dart Energy's plans for commercial coalbed methane at Airth are included in this moratorium. The Government's decision today is testament to the perseverance of people and communities around the country who have tirelessly fought this industry in recent years.

“While we are calling for an outright ban, a halt on the industry while a full examination of health and environmental impacts is carried out is very welcome. Scotland joins France, Ireland, the Netherlands and New York State in a long list of countries and regions which have acted to stop the unconventional gas industry. We are convinced that a proper examination of the mounting evidence of health and environmental concerns must lead to a full ban.”

Mr Ewing announced that a full health impact assessment, consultation with communities and further work to strengthen planning and environmental regulation would be carried out, and that a moratorium on the industry would be in place until completion. He added that the Scottish Government would shortly provide further details of the timescales of this work. Mr Ewing also confirmed that it would be inappropriate to grant any planning permissions for unconventional gas while this work is being carried. This means at least considerable delay if not the end of Dart Energy's plans for commercial coalbed methane at Airth, near Falkirk. Thousands of people locally and across the country opposed this development and Friends of the Earth Scotland fought alongside the community at a public inquiry last year. Canonbie, where 19 planning permissions for coalbed methane extraction exist, is also protected by the Government's new policy, which will stop any new environmental permits being issued to allow this development to advance.

However, the moratorium announced today is not comprehensive as it does not include underground coal gasification, a method whereby coal is set alight underground and gas collected at the surface.

“We are disappointed that underground coal gasification has been excluded from this moratorium. This desperate method of extracting yet more fossil fuels involves setting coal seams alight deep underground and has been linked to serious pollution in recent trials. Going after new fossil fuels is the last thing we need in the context of the latest, urgent warnings from climate science, and is not a responsible action for a country trying to meet its targets.”

Notes to Editors

1.Scottish Government statement http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Moratorium-called-on-fracking-1555.aspx

2. Background information on unconventional gas and fracking is here: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/unconventionalgasshortbriefJan2015 and a myth-busting document is here: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/FrackingMythBuster

3. Reaction to Scottish Labour’s announcement on Saturday: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/Scottish-Labour-fracking

4. Reaction to SNP MPs’ commitment to vote for a moratorium on fracking: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/SNP-fracking-vote

5. Energy firm announces plans to extract gas from under the waters of the Firth of Forth using underground coal gasification (November 2014) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-29987033

6. 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, 74 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.