After over six years of campaigning against fracking by Friends of the Earth Scotland and local communities, the Scottish government announced on 3 October to effectively ban unconventional oil and gas extraction - in short: fracking – in the whole country.
On 24 October, the Scottish Parliament voted in support of the government’s proposal.
Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse used clear language in the announcement:
“I can confirm that the conclusion of the Scottish Government is that we will not support the development of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland. […] This action means we will use planning powers to ensure that any unconventional oil and gas applications are considered in line with our position of not supporting unconventional oil and gas.”
Responding to this announcement, Friends of the Earth Scotland Head of Campaigns Mary Church said:
“This is a victory for the environment and for local communities fighting fracking. The Scottish Government’s decision today to ban fracking will be warmly welcomed across the country and around the world. This is a huge win for the anti-fracking movement, particularly for those on the frontline of this dirty industry here in Scotland, who have been working for a ban these last six years.”
The victory comes after six years of campaigning by Friends of the Earth Scotland who worked with communities, individuals, and other organisations to build a movement that meant that politicians had to act. They raised concerns about the impacts of fracking on our environment, public health and the climate.
A huge public consultation resulted in a 99% rejection of the fracking industry - the largest example of people responding with a single voice to a consultation in Scotland's history.
The Minister announced that the existing moratorium would be extended indefinitely using planning and environmental regulation powers to effectively ban the fracking industry. However, it fell short of committing to passing a law like recent bans in Ireland, Victoria and Maryland, when powers over onshore oil and gas licensing are finally handed over by Westminster.
Along these lines, Church continued:
“We urge the Scottish Government to go further than relying on planning powers to give effect to this ban, and instead commit to passing a law to ban the fracking industry for good. There’s no doubt that when onshore oil and gas licensing powers are finally handed over it will be within the legislative competence of the Parliament to ban fracking, and that there is a powerful mandate to do so.”
While the fracking ban in Scotland is a huge win for campaigners and communities, there is still need for a firm mandate to cement it legally. Friends of the Earth Scotland will keep pushing to ensure that happens – and so will groups in other countries that haven’t arrived at a ban yet.