The Scottish Government said on Thursday it has set out a “finalised policy of no support” for unconventional oil and gas (UOG) development — commonly known as “fracking” — in Scotland.
“This means the Scottish Government will not issue licences for new UOG development, and that Scotland’s planning framework will not support development using unconventional oil and gas extraction techniques, including coal bed methane and hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as ‘fracking’,” said the Scottish Government.
Friends of the Earth Scotland welcomed the move on fracking but noted “the Government’s position will be upheld by policy levers rather than the legislative ban that frontline communities and campaigners have long called for.”
Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “The Scottish Government’s final policy position is that we do not support the development of unconventional oil and gas – often known as ‘fracking’ – in Scotland.
“That decision followed consideration of many factors including the significant negative effects that UOG development could have on our natural environment and the health and wellbeing of communities, while bearing in mind the overwhelming feedback from the public that this should not be permitted in Scotland.
“After a comprehensive evidence-gathering exercise, we have concluded that the development of onshore unconventional oil and gas is incompatible with our policies on climate change, energy transition and the decarbonisation of our economy.
“Fracking can only happen if licences are issued and we do not intend to issue any licences which would permit that.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “The decision comes almost five 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.”