The headline announcement was a moratorium, or suspension, of planning consents for unconventional gas and oil developments. The Scottish Government is also proposing work to assess planning, environmental and health impact along with public consultation.
A moratorium, by its nature, is a temporary solution. We need to know what will happen after the consultation and assessment process is concluded.
At the end of last week, Scottish Labour’s leader, Jim Murphy, announced that the next Scottish Labour Government would use existing powers to stop onshore fracking.
The environmental and safety case for fracking has not been made and Scottish Labour has proposed a ‘triple-lock’ system to halt any onshore fracking taking place in Scotland robust safeguards are in place.
– A local referendum before final planning approval is given;
– Halting any fracking in Scotland until the lessons of fracking in the rest of the UK are learned;
– A comprehensive review of the baseline conditions before any planning application is granted.
The powers to block fracking until these conditions are met are already devolved to the Scottish Government but its moratorium falls short.
In correspondence I’ve received, communities are concerned that developments will be imposed on them against their will. Our proposals for local referendums aim to reassure communities that no development will able to take place without local residents endorsing the decision.
At the beginning of the week Labour MPs prompted a UK Government U-turn to introduce new protections before fracking can go ahead. If the Infrastructure Bill is enacted with these conditions, it will mean that tougher environmental standards will apply elsewhere than exist in Scotland, unless the Scottish Government adopts the same approach.
I raised the issue of the climate impacts of fracking with the Ministr given that the Scottish Government has failed to meet the first three of its annual targets. Alongside the general issue of unconventional gas exploitation I specifically raised fugitive emissions as an issue needing more research.
I am pleased that the Scottish Government has finally agreed to Scottish Labour’s demand to use the planning process to halt fracking for the time being. But this week’s statement doesn’t go nearly far enough.
Scottish Labour will continue to press the Scottish Government to set out clearly how it will control fracking in Scotland when powers are fully devolved.