Scotland business

Head of Weir Group claims fracking 'spin is beating science'

Keith Cochrane stands in a factory Image copyright The Weir Group PLC
Image caption Keith Cochrane, chief executive of the Weir Group

Spin is "beating science" in the debate over fracking in Scotland, the head of the Weir Group has claimed.

Keith Cochrane, chief executive of the engineering firm, said that he feared Scotland would be left behind in the global market place.

The Weir Group is the world's leading supplier of pressure pumping equipment to the hydraulic fracturing industry.

The Scottish government has announced a moratorium on planned fracking operations amid envorinmental fears.

Mr Cochrane told business leaders at a dinner in Edinburgh that Scotland and the UK could benefit from technology that had helped "transform" America's energy industry.

"I accept the issue is controversial and of course Scotland and the rest of the UK are perfectly within their rights to say no," he said.

"All I ask is that they do so on the basis of fact and reason rather than propaganda and spin. I'm afraid as I look at the recent debate unfold in Scotland in particular, I think the spinners are beating the scientists and we should all regret that."

He added: "If there's one thing you learn quickly at the helm of an international business, it is just how fiercely competitive the global market place is.

"I have a real fear Scotland, and to some extent the UK, risk becoming too insular, too self-obsessed. While we look in the mirror, other countries are racing ahead."

What is fracking and why is it controversial?

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Media captionThe BBC's David Shukman explains how fracking works
  • Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside.
  • The extensive use of fracking in the US, where it has revolutionised the energy industry, has prompted environmental concerns.
  • The first is that fracking uses huge amounts of water that must be transported to the fracking site, at significant environmental cost.
  • The second is the worry that potentially carcinogenic chemicals used may escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site.
  • But the industry suggests fracking of shale gas could contribute significantly to the UK's future energy needs

Find out more....

'Cautious approach'

The Scottish government announced a block on planned fracking operations, pending further inquiries, at the end of January.

Consent for any unconventional oil and gas developments will be refused on planning grounds, while ministers carry out new work on the environmental and health implications of the controversial gas drilling technique.

Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Energy Minister, said at the time of the announcement that Holyrood ministers had taken a "cautious" approach to fracking, and that "given the importance of this work, it would be inappropriate to allow any planning consents in the meantime".

Full powers over fracking are to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament after May's general election.

Opponents of fracking say it should be ruled out completely.

They claim it causes earthquakes, pollutes water supplies, and could lead to inappropriate development in the countryside.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks has said there is "overwhelming public opinion in favour of cleaner forms of energy, and a sufficient body of evidence why unconventional oil and gas are neither good for people or the planet".

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