Scotland will be excluded from the new UK Infrastructure Bill which denotes the rules and regulations for unconventional oil and gas exploration in the country. As a result, Scottish landowners – unlike those in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland – will be protected from oilfield companies drilling or running pipelines under their land.
The Scottish government, the Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish Green Party had all opposed the Bill, while Labour Shadow Energy Minister, Tom Greatrex, lodged an amendment requesting that the power over unconventional oil and gas exploration be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The devolution of rights over oil and gas exploration was also recommended by the Smith Commission which oversees the transfer of powers to the Scottish Parliament, following the independence referendum last September.
However, as those new devolution powers would not come to Scotland before May’s election, the Coalition has decided to exclude Scotland from the Infrastructure Bill instead.
Tom Greatrex, commented on the decision, saying: “While some in Holyrood would like to pretend that the Scottish Government is powerless to act over fracking, the truth is that already nothing can happen at all in Scotland without the approval of ministers in Edinburgh. Their control over the planning and permitting regime gives the SNP ultimate responsibility and an effective veto for shale gas extraction in Scotland.
“But in the context of devolved planning and permitting regimes, it makes sense for underground mineral access rights, which are essentially a secondary aspect of the planning process, should be devolved as well. Labour have won a major concession from the Government on this point, who will now exclude Scotland from changes being made in the Infrastructure Bill.”
Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing, who had previously argued that the future of Scotland’s shale gas should be decided by Hollyrood and not Westminster, said that the decision was a “victory for common sense”.
He added: “It is a vindication of the Scottish Government’s continued objections to UK Government plans to remove the right of Scottish householders to object to unconventional oil and gas drilling under their home.
“We’re glad the UK Government has finally taken this on board – especially as 99 per cent of respondents to their own consultation also opposed the move.”
In the past, the Scottish Green Party tried and failed to introduce an outright ban on fracking in Scotland. But while Scottish politicians keep an open mind about fracking, Scottish people seem to have already decided. A study carried out by The University of Nottingham showed that of all the people in the UK, the Scots are the most sceptical about the benefits of shale gas.
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