Unconventional oil and gas extraction condemned as “the toxic fag end of the fossil fuel industry”
MSPs have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a stricter ban on fracking, following a two-hour debate in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.
The ban was backed by 91 MSPs, with only 28 voting against, and received support from four out of the five parties represented in Holyrood, with only the Scottish Conservatives opposing the ban.
This follows the Scottish Government’s announcement earlier this month that it would formalise and solidify its moratorium on unconventional oil and gas extraction, with ministers saying that fracking “cannot and will not take place in Scotland”.
The Scottish Government accepted amendments to the ban from both Labour and the Greens, requesting that the ban be included in future national planning frameworks to strengthen its legal efficacy and avoid it being overturned in future.
The ban’s inclusion in the national planning framework will enable licensing powers, devolved to the Scottish Parliament last year, to put the ban into law.
The Scottish Greens, who voted in favour and had argued that the ban in its original form “merely extended its current moratorium”, argued that adding the ban to the national planning framework would make the restriction “legally watertight”.
Green MSP Mark Ruskell, speaking during the preceding debate, was vociferous in his condemnation of the controversial practice, calling fracking “the toxic fag end of the fossil fuel industry”.
“Today the Scottish Parliament has said ‘no’ to fracking in Scotland.” Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse
Scottish Labour MSP Claudia Beamish voiced similar objections, and has tabled a private member’s bill which would put the fracking ban into law. She called for an “extra layer of protection”, saying that current proposals “do not go far enough”.
Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse countered these arguments by saying the vote represents a “clear endorsement” of the Scottish Government’s position.
Wheelhouse continued: “We undertook one of the most far-reaching examinations of unconventional oil and gas ever carried out by any government and created numerous opportunities through the process for discourse and debate.
“Today the Scottish Parliament has said ‘no’ to fracking in Scotland. Today the Scottish Parliament did the right thing for Scotland and endorsed our position.”
Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser attempted to introduce a further amendment, the wording of which argued that “this is an ill-thought out, which completely disregards scientific evidence” was defeated, with 90 MSPs voting against it.
Fraser argued during the debate: “What we have is an SNP government dancing to the tune of the Green Party rather than listening to the experts and listening to the science.”
However, Wheelhouse argued that the ban on fracking was “a clear example of the deployment of the precautionary principle”.
He continued: “In reviewing the research findings, I had particular concerns about the insufficiency of epidemiological evidence on health impacts highlighted by Health Protection Scotland. Health Protection Scotland also noted that a precautionary approach to unconventional oil and gas is warranted on the basis of the available evidence.”
“We are putting our constituents first. We are putting our environment first. We are putting our community first.” SNP MSP Christina McKelvie
Regarding the potential economic of fracking, SNP MSP Christina McKelvie said: “In my constituency, the economic impact of Brexit, which for South Lanarkshire council could be as much as £1.3bn lost to the local economy, far outweighs any economic benefit from fracking.
“We are putting our constituents first. We are putting our environment first. We are putting our community first. This is a huge win for us.”
In the aftermath of the vote, a strategic environmental assessment will now be commissioned to assess the likely impact and outcome of the Scottish Government’s position before it is finalised.
Picture courtesy of Erick Gustafson
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