The British government enthusiastic attitude toward shale gas is well known, but the Scots are reluctant to follow Westminster’s lead.
The Scottish energy minster Fergus Ewing said on Friday that he believed that the future of Scotland’s shale gas should be decided by Hollyrood and not Westminster. Quoted in The Scotsman, Mr Ewing said the decision on Scottish shale gas should be made in “an evidence-based, cautious and considered” way.
“All of the decisions taken about it should be taken by the people of Scotland, through the parliament and government they elected,” he added.
“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.”
Under current proposals from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), exploration companies will be able run pipelines and carry out horizontal drilling under private land without obtaining the landowner’s permission, providing that the work is carried out at depths greater than 300 metres.
Unsurprisingly, environmental campaigners have welcomed Mr Ewing’s comments. Friends of the Earth Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon told The Scotsman: “We are delighted that the Scottish Government is saying no to UK Government plans to remove people’s rights to stop, or even be notified about, shale gas fracking underneath their homes.
“The UK Government is falling over itself to get fracking going – all credit to Scottish ministers for having more respect for Scottish communities.
“The Scottish Government’s more cautious approach to unconventional gas extraction is good news for the people of Scotland and bad news for any operators hoping to make a quick buck before the shale bubble bursts.”
He added: “This is a very clear message to the fracking industry that Scotland is a place where it will be much harder to do business.”
Earlier this year, The Green Party failed to ban fracking altogether in Scotland. At the time, Labour MSP Iain Gray said: “We are not in a position to shut down yet another potential energy source, especially when we do not even yet have the scientific evidence for what reserves are available”
Mr Ewing was open to the various scenarios of shale exploration in Scotland, stressing that whatever decision is made in the future, it needs to be made solely by the Scottish people, saying: “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, 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.“
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