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Fracking: Scottish government announces ban

The Scottish Government is to ban fracking in Scotland, following the findings of their four month public consultation.

Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy in the Scottish Government Paul Wheelhouse made the announcement to the Scottish Parliament.

The decision, welcomed by environmental campaigners, was immediately attacked by Tom Pickering, Operations Director at INEOS Shale.

The Scottish Government, he said, was “turning its back on a potential manufacturing and jobs renaissance.” The company estimated 3,100 Scottish jobs would have been created.

Recent figures on jobs and investment estimate that the shale industry is expected to bring in £33 billion of investment into England alone over the next two decades.

Over the past 50 years North Sea exploration has been a rare economic and technological success story for Scotland.

As North Sea oil and gas declines, shale gas could offer Scotland a vital opportunity to revitalise its energy economy.

With a report commissioned by the Scottish Government itself judging shale production safe, today’s decision seems bizarre, says INEOS Shale.

Tom Pickering continued: “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.”

The company says a thriving Scottish shale industry would benefit local communities to the tune of an estimated £1 billion.

Shale Gas is fully backed by the UK government and the British Geological Survey,.

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.”

Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said: “The Scottish Government ignores the advice of its own independent experts and prefers a future where gas will have to be imported with the damage that will do to the economy and the environment. It turns its back on job creation, skills development, an increase in tax receipts and investment in communities.

“Over the last 20 years, 30 wells have been drilled and produce gas within the Central Belt, without any impact to the natural environment or public health.

“This is a poor decision, ignoring Scotland’s rich heritage and expertise in oil and gas. It is not based on the evidence from extensive independent research, which clearly states that with appropriate regulatory oversight and monitoring Scotland’s regulatory framework is sufficiently robust to manage onshore exploration and production.

“Today in Scotland, there are nearly 2m homes and over 22,000 commercial businesses that are connected to gas. 78% of domestic heating is provided by gas and 43% of all gas consumed is by industry.

“Currently over 50% of that gas is imported into the UK and set to rise significantly over the next few years.

“There is no viable or affordable alternative to Scottish natural gas from shale other than importing significant quantities of gas.

“It is interesting that Paul Wheelhouse should mention the Committee on Climate Change, who have in fact stated that the Scottish Government’s own target of having 80% of heating from low carbon sources by 2032 is ‘very unlikely to be feasible’, and that an onshore gas industry could fit well within Scotland’s climate change targets if certain conditions were met, which the industry was committed to doing.

“The reality is that it’s better for the planet to be producing our gas here rather than shipping it in across oceans from elsewhere, especially when Scotland has a petrochemicals industry so reliant on natural gas.

“But after today’s decision, the significant benefits from production will now be lost, and the opportunity to develop a robust future energy mix discarded. This is a decision that is based on dogma not evidence or geo-political reality.”

However, the ban was welcomed by environmental campaigners.

“The Scottish Government ban on fracking is a huge win for thousands of people who have campaigned against fracking for six years,” said Elisabeth Whitebread, Energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK.

She continued: “Unlike Westminster, Holyrood is listening to public opinion. We already have more gas than we can afford to burn, and as well as damaging the climate, fracking will cause local noise, air and light pollution.

“By announcing an outright ban on this new fossil fuel industry in Scotland, and using a fair process to reach their decision, the SNP Government is leading the way towards the clean energy system that people want.

“The Conservative Government in Westminster is now alone in backing fracking and looks very isolated indeed.

“Across England, growing numbers of local people will continue to oppose fracking and the failure of democracy on this issue. Conservatives in Westminster should stop chasing fracked gas, that we don’t need, and the overwhelming majority don’t want.”

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