The Scottish Government has indicated that is has no plans, ‘at this time’, to follow the Prime Minister’s dash for fracking. Applications will be considered by councils in Scotland on their merits, without incentives, based on the tougher planning guidance issued last year.
The PM announced that councils in England would receive all the business rates collected from shale gas schemes – rather than the usual 50%. This doesn’t apply to Scotland because powers over fracking are devolved. He said: “Shale is important for our country. It could bring 74,000 jobs, over £3 billion of investment, give us cheaper energy for the future, and increase our energy security. I want us to get on board this change that is doing so much good and bringing so much benefit to North America. I want us to benefit from it here as well.”
Environment campaigners have criticised the announcement. WWF Scotland, said: “If we’re really serious about tackling climate change the last thing ministers should be doing is finding yet more ways to support the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.”
A report in today’s Guardian covers leaked documents from the European commission, that show that attempts to safeguard the environment with a new legally binding directive have been defeated by the UK and its allies, which include Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Instead, a set of non-binding "recommendations" covering protection against water contamination and potential earthquakes will be published on 22 January. The EU's environment commissioner has said there are "clear gaps" in current safety rules.
Tory MSP, Alex Johnstone has put a question down for FMQ’s on Thursday on planning requirements. While the Scottish Government isn’t providing incentives, their stance is not against fracking in principle. The same can be said about the White Paper answers on this point. Last month Utilities Scotland pointed to the link between fracking and Ineos plans for Grangemouth.
In September last year I set out the case for not joining the dash for fracking and UNISON's Scottish Council approved a critical motion in December. My own view is that the environmental case against fracking is finely balanced and not in itself grounds for an outright ban if properly regulated. However, energy analysts don’t support the PM’s argument on lower energy prices and it’s a huge distraction from the urgent need to shift to low carbon energy sources. As always in the energy industry job claims need to be treated sceptically. Even if these jobs are created, they will displace other jobs elsewhere in the industry.
David Cameron’s green credentials were always based on pretty thin spin. They are now in tatters.