Narrow vote highlights demand for full ban instead of moratorium
THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT has voted for a full ban on unconventional oil and gas extraction, known as fracking, after the SNP abstained on the related amendment.
Labour, Scottish Green and Liberal Democrat MSPs outvoted the Conservatives by 32 MSPs to 29, meaning the parliament signalled its support for a total ban on the controversial drilling practice using the powers of the Scottish Parliament.
Campaigners celebrated the result as a further step towards implementing a full ban in practice. The SNP, explaining its decision to abstain, said it would continue to gather research on fracking before deciding whether to allow the practice or ban it in full.
Head of campaigns for Friends of the Earth Scotland, Mary Church, said: “It’s great that the Scottish Parliament has voted to ban fracking and sent this clear message to the government to get on and do it. It is also clear from today’s vote that there is a growing consensus that stopping climate change means we have to say no to new fossil fuels like fracked gas.”
The Scottish Labour Party focused on fracking during the debate, which covered all issues of the environment, climate change and land reform.
MSP Elaine Smith warned of the environmental impacts of fracking, and the wider threat of climate change that would be exacerbated by fracking methane releases.
Following the debate Labour spokesperson Claudia Beamish MSP added: “Today the will of the Scottish Parliament has been made clear – there should be an outright ban on fracking. The SNP may have abstained on the vote, but they cannot ignore the clear position of Scotland's Parliament.”
Over a dozen SNP branches previously proposed a full ban on fracking to the party’s conference, and an ongoing campaign group – SNP Members Against Unconvention Gas (Smaug) – is pushing the party to take a firmer line.
However, the government has stuck to a plan to consider the environmental and economic impact of fracking across several years of research.
SNP minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “The government is deeply sceptical of fracking, and we have ensured that no fracking can take place in Scotland at this time through our moratorium. However, we have also set out the need to conduct a full research programme followed by a full consultation of people in Scotland so that any future decisions on fracking are informed fully by the scientific evidence and the views of the people who live and work here.”
A recent report, focused on the economic rather than environmental impact of fracking, raised concerns that any fracking financial benefit is likely to be short-term and benefit corporations above local communities.
Wheelhouse added: “We expect that he will be able to report later this summer, and we hope that that will be published later on this year.”
Picture courtesy of Progress Ohio