SNP abandons science with its hypocritical fracking ban

SNP abandons science with its hypocritical fracking ban

by Murdo Fraser
article from Friday 6, October, 2017

IN THE END, it was an announcement that took no-one by surprise. The SNP’s Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, told the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday that fracking in Scotland was to be banned on a permanent basis, following the Scottish Government’s deliberation and public consultation on the issue.

It had been clear for some time that this was where we were heading. The rhetoric of SNP ministers, from Nicola Sturgeon downwards, was increasingly negative about the prospects of unconventional oil and gas extraction onshore in Scotland.

Moreover, the political reality at Holyrood, with an SNP minority government relying upon the Greens for support, meant that it would also be very difficult for the SNP to do anything to encourage fracking, even if it had been so minded. Amongst its ranks there were those such as the former Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, who undoubtedly were privately supportive of fracking, but they were voices very much in the minority.

The SNP’s stance is one riddled with hypocrisy. Whilst fracking in Scotland is to be banned, we will continue to see the fracked gas from elsewhere imported to Scotland to heat our homes, and power our industry. Ineos at Grangemouth have a fleet of Chinese-built super tankers ferrying Pennsylvanian shale gas across the Atlantic to provide the vital raw material for their industrial processes. There is no suggestion the SNP will move to stop these imports, instead Ineos will be working with a raw material that has a higher carbon footprint than the fracked gas they could have found closer to home.

As a fracking industry develops in England, we will undoubtedly see English fracked gas being used to heat Scottish homes. SNP ministers might be left feeling virtuous that there is no fracking here, but the reality is that the economic benefits, and the jobs, that fracking would provide, will only now benefit Scottish workers if they are prepared to leave their homes and move south.

But perhaps the worst aspect of all this is the contempt that the SNP has shown for evidence-led, science-based policy. And the science was quite clear in this case. The Scottish Government’s own expert scientific panel produced a report as far back as July 2014, which stated very clearly that fracking could be carried out safely in Scotland with the appropriate safeguards in place. Rather than go with the science, the SNP took a populist approach which will leave our country the poorer.

Paul Wheelhouse even had the brass neck to claim in a statement that one of the reasons that fracking could not proceed was that in the communities that would be most affected there was no “social license” for fracking to be undertaken. That is an interesting argument for an Energy Minister whose government has, over the last decade, ridden roughshod over the views of residents in areas such as Perthshire to impose large scale wind turbine developments in the teeth of vigorous local opposition, and where the democratically elected local planning authority has already rejected them. But, in the SNP’s world, it is one law for the Central Belt that they are now targeting, and another law for rural Scotland that they seem happy to leave to the Conservatives.

The best assessment of the Scottish Governments’ decision came from Gary Smith, the GMB Union’s Scotland Secretary, who said that it was “dishonest and hypocritical”, adding: “Scotland is importing a huge amount of shale gas from Trump’s America. If the government wants to be consistent, it will now ban shale gas imports, threatening a huge number of job losses. The government has failed to explain where the two million households in Scotland using gas to heat their homes will get gas from in the future”.

This came in a week when the latest GDP growth figures showed that the Scottish economy has a growth rate precisely one third of that of the UK as a whole. The Scottish Government’s response is to ban fracking, to open up a debate about higher levels of income tax, and to ditch its long-standing commitment to reduce Air Departure Tax by 50 per cent to help boost tourism. It is all the evidence anyone needed that the SNP is lurching to the left, and no longer cares about growing the Scottish economy.

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