Scotland politics

SNP members call for fracking ban

Fracking workers looking at drill Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Fracking involves using a high-pressure water mixture to penetrate rock in order to release gas

A new anti-fracking campaign has been launched by a group of SNP members in the run-up to the party's autumn conference next month.

The Scottish government announced in January it was imposing a moratorium on granting consents for shale gas and coalbed methane developments.

It said further research and a public consultation needed to be carried out.

The new group, SNP Members Against Unconventional Gas (SMAUG), wants a ban on all "unconventional" fossil fuels.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock by drilling down into the earth and using a high-pressure water mixture directed at the rock.

The Scottish government said at the start of the year it would not issue any new licences while work on the environmental and health implications of the controversial gas drilling technique were carried out.

Image copyright Alamy
Image caption The group also wants underground coal gasification to be included in the ban

A vote will be held at next month's SNP conference calling for it to be extended to include underground coal gasification.

One of SMAUG's founding members, Iain Black, from the SNP's Forth branch, said: "Scotland already has more oil and gas than it can burn if we are going to halt damaging climate change.

"We can burn North Sea gas or we can burn gas from fracking but we can't burn both. Why would we choose the one that pollutes our waterways, damages the earth under our homes and damages our health and damages our food and drinks industry?"

The Scottish Greens welcomed the new SNP pressure group, which also calls for the banning of underground coal gasification (UCG).

The party's economy and energy spokesman Patrick Harvie said: "Communities across central Scotland threatened by fracking and coal gasification are being left in limbo by SNP ministers trying to face both ways in the run up to an election.

"SMAUG is right to agitate for an outright ban. Ministers have the power to end this dangerous distraction right now."

Mr Harvie added: "The SNP only seem able to go so far as permitting a motion at their conference which merely invites ministers to consider extending their temporary moratorium to include coal gasification.

"This is far short of the permanent ban that our communities want.

'Nods and winks'

Flick Monk of Friends of the Earth Scotland said : "It is clear that local communities do not want their health and environment damaged by energy companies aiming to extract gas at any cost.

"SNP branches from all over the country have proposed a range of resolutions for the party conference calling for a complete ban on all unconventional fossil fuels.

"All eyes will now be on the party conference as SNP members will get the chance to debate how to go beyond the current moratorium and ban unconventional fossil fuels outright."

An SNP spokesman said: "There are a range of views across Scotland on issues around unconventional oil and gas, which is why the Scottish government has put in place a moratorium on fracking to allow a full public consultation where all views can be heard and all evidence can be considered.

"This has been welcomed by people on all sides of the fracking debate - and stands in stark contrast to the gung-ho approach favoured by the UK government."

Labour said SMAUG has further exposed "the SNP's attempt to face both ways on fracking" after Ineos chief executive Jim Ratcliffe reportedly received assurances from the Scottish government that "they're not against fracking".

The party's environmental justice spokewoman Sarah Boyack said: "During the general election SNP MPs campaigned on an anti-fracking platform, but behind the scenes there are allegations that big businesses are getting nods and winks from senior SNP ministers that Scotland was open for business on fracking.

"Under Scottish Labour's plan, no fracking will take place in Scotland without the local community affected giving its approval in a referendum. We will give Scots a local veto over fracking. It is clear that the SNP will not."

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