‘No Scots fracking licences until powers devolved’

THE UK government has agreed not to issue further licences for fracking in Scotland until the powers over licencing are devolved to Holyrood.

Fracking has been met with strong opposition from some people in Scotland. Picture: Michael Gillen
Fracking has been met with strong opposition from some people in Scotland. Picture: Michael Gillen

Scotland’s energy minister Fergus Ewing has already said that “no planning permission will (be) granted” for fracking schemes to extract underground oil and gas while a series of government investigations are carried out to assess its effect.

However, Mr Ewing wrote to the UK government, which still holds the powers over licensing fracking, not to issue any further licences until the power is devolved, as part of the package recommended by the Smith commission.

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The UK government grants licences but ministers in Scotland can withhold consent through the planning system.

Fergus Ewing. Picture: Esme Allen

UK energy minister Matt Hancock told The Scotsman that the coalition government “agreed in principle” to the request from Mr Ewing and that it would not grant licences for fracking.

Mr Hancock said: “We’ve already committed to Scotland having devolved powers for licensing of oil and gas a part of our efforts to give the Scottish Government more decision-making powers.

“We agree in principle to their request that no new licences be awarded in Scotland as part of the 14th licensing round, and will consult with companies who have already applied before making a final decision.”

The decision to withhold licences means there is now no immediate prospect of fracking in Scotland.

Mr Ewing has that a mass public consultation exercise will be undertaken to gauge Scottish public opinion on fracking and that a full public health assessment will be carried out to address safety amid concerns that the process can cause earthquakes and contaminate groundwater supplies.

The SNP minister previously said: “These are issues that must be researched further.”

THE Scotsman previously revealed that the UK boss of the Grangemouth petrochemical plant’s owner has moved to reassure workers over their future following statements the site was in jeopardy because of ­Scotland’s fracking moratorium.

In an internal memo to staff at the country’s biggest industrial site, John ­McNally, Ineos’ chief executive for Olefins and Polymers UK, said Grangemouth is safe for the next 15 years – but “not guaranteed” beyond this.

His comments follow a warning from Gary Haywood, chief executive of Ineos Upstream, at a Scotsman conference last week that the plant was unlikely to have a future without fracking.

MPs voted overwhelmingly against a moratorium on Monday after the Commons’ environmental audit committee called for an end to fracking until more is know about its potential impact.

A survey by the British Geological Society (BGS) last year found that Scotland’s Central Belt is sitting on billions of barrels of shale oil and trillions of cubic feet of gas which could provide enough gas alone to meet Scotland’s needs for the next half-century.