LABOUR leader Jim Murphy has pledged to stop fracking taking place in Scotland if he is elected as first minister – saying he would not allow the country to be a “guinea pig” for the controversial drilling technique.
Mr Murphy said a Scottish Labour government would use new powers being devolved to Holyrood to licence fracking and introduce a “triple-lock system” to halt any onshore fracking for shale gas in Scotland.
The hardening of Labour’s stance on fracking will be seen as a threat to the plans from the operator of the Grangemouth site Ineos, which bought the majority share of a shale gas exploration licence for Scotland in a deal worth tens of millions of pounds last year.
Ineos, which threatened to close the Grangemouth plant during a bitter industrial dispute in 2013, is engaged in a £360 million project to bring shale gas ethane from the US to its petrochemical plants in Scotland and Norway.
A spokeswoman for Ineos refused to say whether the Swiss-based multinational would abandon its plans for fracking in Scotland in light of the opposition from Mr Murphy, who could be elected as first minister next year.
Scottish ministers favour a “balanced, evidence-based approach” to the process, but have failed to rule out a ban on a technique campaigners say can cause earthquakes, as well as leading to poisoned drinking water.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS
However, Mr Murphy has issued a direct challenge to the SNP’s green credentials, as he warned that to allow fracking would be “reckless” and put at risk “Scotland’s beautiful and bountiful landscape”.
Mr Murphy said he would not permit Scotland to be used as a “testing ground for bad policies” until safeguards are in place, as he compared fracking to Margaret Thatcher’s controversial poll tax, which was first introduced north of the Border before coming into effect in the rest of the UK.
He said: “No application for onshore fracking will even be considered in Scotland until we see what happens in other parts of the UK.
“I will not let Scotland become a guinea pig for fracking.”
David Cameron previously said the UK government is “going all out” for shale gas exploration, which is credited with transforming the prospects for the US energy industry in the past decade.
However, Mr Murphy said there were doubts the technique could be “carried out safely”, with campaigners blaming fracking tests near Blackpool as the “likely cause” of earth tremors in 2011.
Mr Murphy said Labour would use new powers set out by the Smith Commission on devolution to ensure referendums are held in areas to prevent fracking being imposed on communities against their will.
Labour would introduce a moratorium on any fracking in Scotland.
Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser accused Mr Murphy of a “knee-jerk” response on fracking, which he said could jeopardise the future of Grangemouth.
Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing said he would make a statement to MSPs on fracking next week setting out how the government would “strengthen” its approach on the issue.