Scottish government wants to control over fracking north of the border
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The Scottish government is objecting to plans by ministers in Westminster to support unconventional gas and oil exploration by removing the right of UK households to object to drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) beneath their properties.
The new rules are written into the proposed UK Infrastructure Bill and will alter trespass laws to allow developers to exploit shale gas and oil under people’s land and houses without seeking the owner’s permission.
But the Scottish energy minister, Fergus Ewing, says that the devolved government in Edinburgh should decide such powers in Scotland. He accused the UK government of a “gung-ho” approach to unconventional oil and gas exploration, and claimed it had failed to fully consult with the Scottish government on the issue.
“The Scottish government believe that there should be an evidence based, cautious and considered approach to unconventional oil and gas, and that all of the decisions taken about it should be taken by the people of Scotland, through the parliament and government they elected,” said Ewing.
According to a report by the British Geological Society, the populous Midland valley region of Scotland, which includes Edinburgh and Glasgow, contains up to 134.6 trillion cubic feet of shale gas and around 6 billion barrels of shale oil, though it is unlikely that it could all be commercially exploited.
The Scottish government convened a group of experts in September 2013 to review the scientific evidence on unconventional oil and gas. Its findings, published in July, concluded there could be positive economic impacts from the development of an unconventional oil and gas industry, and that the regulatory framework to control potential environmental impacts is largely in place, although there may be gaps to address.
Following extensive public consultation, Derek Mackay, minister for local government and planning in the Scottish government, recently announced a new planning policy for Scotland. It contains five new measures related to hydraulic fracturing, including bringing in a requirement that developments only proceed if communities and the environment can be protected. Operators will have to also consult with communities on their proposals.
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