FRACKING will be widespread across the Lothians within five years, according to two US-based political heavyweights.
Highly-respected American commentators Jason Boxt and Robert Moran, who are in Edinburgh for this weekend’s Festival of Politics, said they expected Scotland to follow the American trend where fracking has surged in popularity.
Protesters in England have reacted angrily to exploratory drilling probes, with eco- warriors doing battle with police.
And while those scenes of anger could be repeated here, Mr Boxt and Mr Moran believe within half a decade people here will be receptive to fracking, as the benefits become clear in a carbon copy of how the industry has been received in the United States.
Mr Boxt, who is aligned to the Democrats, said: “I feel like Scotland is today where the United States was maybe four or five years ago. In the United States, there’s very enthusiastic support from the right-wing [parties] and then you see in the centre there’s a resignation that fracking is here to stay.
“The fear mongering that we saw in the United States a few years back has dissipated. Quite honestly the scientific technology has grown at a pace that may not be matched in a lot of other industries – on how to access, extract and how to synthesise natural gas.
“It has come on so quickly that it’s deflated the sails of those who have been anti-fracking.
“I would be shocked if Scotland wasn’t supportive of fracking in five years.”
Parts of Mid, East and West Lothian, which are rich in shale deposits, face being put out to tender for fracking later this year by the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change.
Hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, which has sparked ugly protests this month in West Sussex, is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure to crack shale rocks and release natural gas. Shale beds provided just one per cent of America’s natural gas supply in 2000, but that figure has since soared to nearly 25 per cent.
Mr Moran, a Republican campaign manager pollster, said the US was approaching “energy independence” in part because of fracking.
He said an independent Scotland could similarly benefit from the controversial method of extracting gas, but said campaigners faced a “very high hurdle” to achieve a majority Yes vote at next year’s independence referendum.
Pressure group Frack Off fears widespread gas extraction would lead to a network of roads and pipelines that would result in more water and air pollution.
Referendum high on the agenda
The Festival of Politics closes tomorrow after bringing together heavyweight debaters with the elite of Scottish politics.
The referendum featured highly as a topic, as did Scotland’s defence capabilities. A spokeswoman said: “This year’s festival is sharp, relevant and brings together the best thinkers and commentators in their field to discuss the big issues of the day.”
The festival runs in the Scottish Parliament.