Fracking ban fails to allay fears

Claudia Beamish MSP, centre, at an anti-fracking protest.
Claudia Beamish MSP, centre, at an anti-fracking protest.

Fears among residents of a quiet corner of Clydesdale that it might become the centre of a new Scottish fracking industry have been allayed – but only for the time being.

The Scottish Government announcement that it is to extend its moratorium on the controversial gas extraction method “indefinitely” has received a general welcome, especially in the Tarbrax area, where there are thought to be abundant shale reserves left after the Victorian shale oil boom there.

There are now calls to turn that open-ended moratorium into a total and permanent legal ban on fracking in Scotland.

On the opposite side of the argument, there are those who feel the Scottish Govermnent is passing up a chance to create a whole new lucrative power industry.

One person giving the government move an unequivocal welcome is Clydesdale MSP Aileen Campbell.

The Scottish National Party MSP told the Gazette that 99% of respondents to the Scottish Government consultation on the issue had expressed opposition to fracking, and it was that that prompted the decision to make the 2015 suspension of fracking explorations in Scotland an indefinite one.

She said: “This announcement will be warmly welcomed by many across Clydesdale who have long campaigned against the development of fracking in Scotland, who I commend for their efforts on this issue.

“The Scottish Government has pursued an evidence-based approach to fracking, in stark contrast to the gung-ho attitude of the UK Government.

“Having put a moratorium in place more than two years ago, evaluated the evidence and consulted the people of Scotland, the Scottish Government has reached the right conclusion that the fracking industry cannot be supported.

“I am delighted by this announcement and commend the Scottish Government for the approach it has taken.”

There was a more guarded welcome for the decision from Lanark-based South Scotland Labour list MSP Claudia Beamish, who wants to see the moratorium turned into a permanent ban.

She claimed the the SNP government had been prompted to “get off the fence” on the issue after Labour pressure in Holyrood and warned that only extending the moratorium left open the risk that some future administration might one day give fracking operations the green light.

She said: “This is a victory for Labour, environmental groups and communities across Clydesdale and Scotland.

“However, these proposals don’t go far enough. They do not offer the protection of Labour’s policy of a total ban.

“Labour has long argued that the climate change science is clear – we do not need another fossil fuel.

“Instead, Scotland needs to develop forms of renewable energy with unionised and well paid-jobs.

“This announcement is a result of Labour pressure, including my proposal to change the law to ban fracking in Scotland.”

She said that, despite the government declaring the moratorium indefinite, it could be overturned at any time, adding: “That is why I will continue to push for a full legal ban.”