Notwithstanding a report commissioned by the Scottish government itself judging shale production safe, the existing moratorium on fracking in Scotland has been extended for an ‘indefinite’ period, the government announced yesterday.
A public consultation on unconventional oil and gas, Talking "Fracking", which ran from 31 January to 31 May 2017, generated over 60,000 responses, 99% of which were opposed to fracking and fewer than 1% were in favour.
Those opposed to fracking emphasised the potential for significant, long-lasting negative impacts on communities, health, environment, and climate; expressed scepticism about the ability of regulation to mitigate negative impacts; and were unconvinced about the value of any economic benefit or the contribution of unconventional oil and gas to Scotland’s energy mix.
Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse told the Scottish parliament that “The Scottish Government will not support the development of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland.”
Wheelhouse: “We have not taken the process or the decision lightly. At every stage, we have created opportunities for discourse and debate.”
"Scotland’s chemicals industry has conveyed strong views on the potential impact of shale on the sector. I want to be clear that regardless of our position on unconventional oil and gas, our support for Scotland’s industrial base and manufacturing is unwavering.
Manufacturing and the chemicals industry continue to play a crucial role in the Scottish economy. The Scottish Government understands that a supportive fiscal regime, affordable energy, access to the right skills, and good infrastructure are all essential to future success. That is why this government will continue to support industry in a range of different ways in the months and years to come.”
The decision has not gone down well with Ineos, the oil and gas firm which owns the Grangemouth oil refinery and its neighbouring petrochemicals plant. With an official ban on shale extraction, Scotland will miss out on the numerous economic and employment benefits that will be enjoyed by the rest of the UK including an estimated 3,100 Scottish jobs, according to the company.
Tom Pickering, operations director at Ineos Shale, called it a ‘sad day for those of us who believe in evidence-led decision making. “The Scottish Government has turned its back on a potential manufacturing and jobs renaissance and lessened Scottish academia’s place in the world by ignoring its findings,” he said.
Recent figures on jobs and investment estimate that the shale industry is expected to bring in £33bn of investment into England alone over the next two decades.
Pickering: ”Today’s decision is a slight on the dedicated professionalism that Scottish workers have pioneered in the North Sea. We lead the world in exploration safety, but I fear we will start to see large numbers of Scottish workers leaving the country to find work as the North Sea oil and gas industry continues to decline.”
Tom Pickering concluded: “Natural gas will be needed by Scotland for the foreseeable future and production from the North Sea continues to decline. This decision, which beggar’s belief means gas becomes a cost for the Scottish economy instead of an ongoing source of income. It speaks volumes about Scottish leadership on the world stage and sends a clear and negative message to any future investors in Scotland. Expert reports have clearly stated that this technology can be applied safely and responsibly – but it will be England that reaps the benefits.”