The Prime Minister yesterday told opponents of fracking for shale gas to “get on board” as he announced UK government funding to promote the use of the process.
Fracking involves pumping vast quantities of water, sand and chemicals into the ground under extreme pressure to crack shale rock and release the gas.
But his announcement attracted opposition from environmental campaigners, while the Scottish Government repeated a pledge that there are no environmental permissions which would allow the process in Scotland “at this time”.
And Mr Cameron’s plan to heavily promote fracking was criticised as potentially damaging by an MSP and environmental campaigners.
The Prime Minister said “nothing would go ahead if there were environmental dangers” as he announced that English councils which back fracking would get to keep more money in tax revenue.
He said the local authorities would receive all the business rates collected from shale gas schemes – rather than the usual 50 per cent. However, the incentives will not apply north of the Border, with powers over fracking devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
Mr Cameron said: “Shale is important for our country. It could bring 74,000 jobs, over £3 billion of investment, give us cheaper energy for the future, and increase our energy security.
“I want us to get on board this change that is doing so much good and bringing so much benefit to North America. I want us to benefit from it here as well.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman yesterday said ministers had no plans to use their powers to follow Mr Cameron’s dash for shale gas.
She said: “There are no proposals which involve the use of fracking techniques in Scotland at this time, and the Scottish Government will follow a rigorous evidence-based approach in the development and deployment of this technology.
“As with proposals for all types of energy projects, any applications for coalbed methane or shale gas projects in Scotland will be studied on their merits.
“Each proposal will be considered through the normal planning process and the appropriate regulatory regimes.”
The Scottish Government added it had strengthened planning laws over fracking, which had previously been planned for a site at Canonbie in Dumfries and Galloway by a developer.
Green MSP Alison Johnstone warned that fracking would not bring down energy bills and create jobs as Mr Cameron claimed.
She said: “The Cameron government is fuelling a dangerous distraction. The tax breaks and the ex-PR man’s hyperbole risk locking us in to yet more dirty energy when we should be
capitalising on our clean
resources and investing in
“Fracking won’t bring down energy bills for consumers as the scale of drilling required simply can’t happen, and we will remain vulnerable to gas price volatility on the international markets.”
Lang Banks, director of environmental charity WWF Scotland, also warned against the expansion of fracking.
He said: “If we’re really serious about tackling climate change the last thing ministers should be doing is finding yet more ways to support the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.”