The Scottish Government is objecting to UK Government proposals which would remove the right of Scottish householders to object to oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing beneath their homes. The stance has been welcomed by the Scottish Greens, who say fracking poses a threat to our economy as well as our environment.
The proposals from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change will allow companies to drill below people’s land without first negotiating a right of access.
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has said that powers on this issue should be with Scotland, and that independence will give the people of Scotland, the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government the power to consider policy on unconventional oil and gas in a cautious, considered and evidence-based way.
Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “The Scottish Government believe that there should be an evidence based, cautious and considered approach to unconventional oil and gas, and that all of the decisions taken about it should be taken by the people of Scotland, through the Parliament and Government they elected.
“UK Government proposals to remove the right of Scottish householders to object to drilling under their homes flies in the face of that approach and that is why we object to them. It is also fundamentally an issue affecting land ownership rights.
“The gung-ho approach of the UK Government to the whole issue of unconventional oil and gas – often without any consultation with the Scottish Government at all – contrasts with our approach.
“Whatever your view on the issue of unconventional oil and gas – and it is clear that there are both opportunities and concerns – there is only one way that the people of Scotland can determine the approach in Scotland – including beneath their homes and land. That is to take the power to deal with this issue away from Westminster and that can only be done with the powers of independence.“
Patrick Harvie, Co-convener of the Scottish Greens, welcomed Energy Minister Fergus Ewing’s comments yesterday.
The Green MSP pointed out that the Infrastructure Bill – put forward at Westminster by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government and supported by Labour – would overrule trespass laws, enabling drilling firms to install pipes to transport gas without landowners’ permission.
He added: “Greens have been calling for this proposal to be blocked in Scotland, so these comments from Fergus Ewing are a good step. Holyrood should reject the UK Infrastructure Bill when it gets the chance to do so by way of legislative consent motions.
“Meantime Scottish ministers should continue to consider the use of existing regulations to ban unconventional gas completely. We are risking our economy, not just our environment, if we encourage yet more fossil fuel extraction.
“Communities such as Airth near Falkirk and Canonbie in Dumfries and Galloway are already facing a battle against gas drilling. Given the Scottish Government’s failure to support a ban on fracking or clear buffer zones, and the First Minister’s description of shale gas as an opportunity, many other communities across Scotland will remain deeply concerned at these unwanted, unnecessary developments.”
In June, Derek Mackay MSP, Minister for Local Government and Planning, announced the new Scottish Planning Policy. Following extensive public consultation and rigorous scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament, it was clear that concerns remained over buffer-zones and community engagement.
Five new measures were introduced in relation to hydraulic fracturing, including bringing in a requirement that developments only proceed if communities and the environment can be protected, and operators will have to consult with communities on their proposals.
The Scottish Government convened a group of experts last September to review the scientific evidence on unconventional oil & gas, and on 28 July they published an authoritative and impartial report.
The findings from the Independent Expert Scientific Panel have highlighted a number of issues that may require further work, including some suggestions on further tightening of our robust regulatory process and a Working Group will now look at these areas to take forward those suggestions.