Labour backs Scottish fracking ban

Campaigners protest against fracking. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Campaigners protest against fracking. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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LABOUR has come out in favour of an outright ban on fracking in Scotland and accused the SNP of planning to give the go-ahead for the controversial practice after the Holyrood elections.

The Scottish Government currently has a moratorium on unconventional gas extraction projects, but Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale claimed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon planned to give the green light to fracking if she is re-elected in May.

Ms Dugdale said in contrast Labour would use new powers given to Holyrood under the Scotland Act to introduce a complete ban. “Labour would not allow fracking in Scotland,” she told MSPs.

Earlier, energy minister Fergus Ewing had answered a question from Lothian Labour MSP Neil Findlay and said the SNP government’s current approach on fracking was “pursuing the matter on the basis of evidence”.

No conclusions had been reached.

Ms Dugdale said: “All across the country, SNP candidates are telling voters that there will be no fracking under the SNP; they are the same people who promised to scrap the council tax. People deserve the truth.”

She quoted comments from Jim Ratcliffe, chief executive of energy firm Ineos, that he had been given private assurances by the government that the SNP is not against fracking.

And she said: “The government has tendered for research into decommissioning on fracking. If the First Minister is not planning to frack, why is she preparing for the clean-up?”

Ms Sturgeon accused Labour of being “desperate” and added: “There is a moratorium on fracking. That means no fracking.”

Lang Banks, director of environmental group WWF Scotland, said the current moratorium on fracking was not the same as permanent ban.

And he welcomed Labour’s “strong commitment”. He said: “The party’s very clear position reflects what climate science tells us and the overwhelming public opinion in favour of cleaner forms of energy.”

Mary Church, Friends of the Earth Scotland head of campaigns, said: “It is fantastic news that Labour have come out unequivocally opposed to fracking. A huge amount of evidence about public health, environmental and climate impacts provides a strong basis for banning this unsafe and unnecessary industry.”

Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie said when the Greens called for a ban on fracking in a debate at Holyrood two years ago, MSPs from all the other parties voted against. “Labour’s sudden conversion a few weeks before an election is late but welcome.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com