FRACKING could provide “positive economic impacts” for Scotland, according to the conclusions of an expert panel set up by the Scottish Government a year ago to investigate the controversial energy source.
The Expert Scientific Panel, publishing on the same day as the UK government announced the opening of the bidding process for licences to extract shale gas, concluded there may be “significant reserves” in Scotland and the potential for development of unconventional gas “at scale”, saying that the industry would create new jobs.
It also said that the social and environmental impacts of fracking – a method of extracting shale gas – could be “mitigated” if they are carefully considered at the planning application stage. But critics warned that there would not be a “US-style bonanza” north of the Border and claimed the potential environmental dangers of the practice outweighed the benefits.
A report released last month stated there could be as many as 11.2 billion barrels of shale beneath Central Scotland, but said more drilling would be needed to assess how easily it could be extracted.
The chairman of the Expert Scientific Panel, Dr Chris Masters, said: “It is clear the development of unconventional hydrocarbons has had a profound effect on the economy of the United States with global repercussions in terms of gas and chemical feedstock prices. While it is unlikely that Scotland, or indeed Europe, would benefit to a similar degree, there could be a number of positive economic impacts.”
The report stated: “There could be positive economic impacts… in terms of jobs created, taxes paid and gross value added.” But the panel also acknowledged public concerns around extraction and the possible impacts on people as it recommended early consultation with communities.
The Scottish Government welcomed the study and said it would set up a working group to consider the panel’s findings in more detail. Environmental campaigners claim the practice causes disruption and damaging development in the countryside, and can cause minor earthquakes and the risk of water pollution.
Friends of the Earth Scotland head of campaigns, Mary Church, said: “This report raises a number of very serious concerns including impacts on public health and climate. The analysis clearly demonstrates that even if all the environmental, health and regulatory issues could be overcome, there still wouldn’t be a US-style bonanza here, simply because the cost of extraction and the technical and geological challenges are too great.
“It is simply wishful thinking to imagine that it is possible to safely frack for unconventional gas in the most densely populated part of the country.”