The cases for and against the Scottish fracking ban

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The decision from the Scottish Government to impose a permanent ban on fracking has proved a contentious issue.

A final vote on the full ban will come before MSPs after the Holyrood recess, but it is likely to be passed with the backing of the Greens, Labour and Liberal Democrats who all back a ban.

We spoke to two experts on either side of the debate to see what they thought of the ban and if it is the best decision for Scotland.

READ MORE: Scottish Government announces ban on fracking

FOR

Ken Cronin, chief executive, UK Onshore Oil and Gas, a representative body for the industry

Demonstrators protesting against fracking outside Grangemouth. Picture: Getty

Demonstrators protesting against fracking outside Grangemouth. Picture: Getty

Today in Scotland, there are nearly two million homes and over 22,000 commercial businesses that are connected to gas - 78 per cent of domestic heating is provided by gas and 43 per cent of all gas consumed is by industry.

Transferring homes to heating by low-carbon sources is not viable. It will be prohibitively expensive and would condemn more people to fuel poverty. The Committee on Climate Change described the idea as “unlikely to be feasible”.

The government’s reluctance to consider a role for onshore gas in the energy mix, despite its own experts saying regulation is robust, means that we will be importing significant quantities of gas - with the impact that will have on our economy and, ironically, the global environment.

Onshore gas exploration was pioneered in Scotland more than 150 years ago. Over the last 20 years 30 wells have been drilled in the central belt with no effects on public health or the environment.

The government cherry-picks evidence to match dogma. It would rather our industry imports shale gas from overseas rather than use our engineering skills and create jobs at home.

Why ignore technologies such as carbon and capture storage (CCS) and decarbonisation, which demonstrate that gas has a role to play in a low-carbon future? This is where Scotland could have developed a world-leading industry alongside North Sea oil and gas but now that opportunity is lost.

READ MORE: INEOS on Scottish fracking ban: ‘England will reap benefits’

AGAINST

Mary Church, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland (which is a member of the Broad Alliance coalition of Scottish organisations against fracking)

Today’s announcement from the Scottish Government to ban fracking is a huge victory for the environment and for local communities fighting fracking. Scotland has joined a growing number of states and regions around the world who have said no to the industry.

The evidence presented to the Scottish Government over the past two and a half years of moratorium documents a truly alarming catalogue of hazards and risks that the fracking industry would bring with it. These range from irreversible pollution of our water sources to an increase in climate-changing emissions and harm to the health of people unfortunate enough to live in the path of the industry.

The potential health risks alone are enough to merit a ban on the fracking industry. An increasing number of studies in the US, where the industry is more developed, link onshore gas drilling to health impacts including low birth weights and congenital heart defects in babies born to mothers living in the vicinity of wells, as well as respiratory, heart and kidney diseases and cancers.

But climate change too, increasingly features as a key factor in the implementation of bans and moratoriums around the world. Not just because of the alarming impact of methane leaking from fracking infrastructure on the climate, but because the fact that we cannot afford to open up any new frontiers of fossil fuels if we are to avert catastrophic global warming is beginning to sink in.

This decision will be met with celebration across the country and around the world, and signals an important step to a zero-carbon future for Scotland.