2000 gas protesters link hands over Forth Road Bridge

Campaigners link hands across the bridge
Campaigners link hands across the bridge
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A MAJOR demonstration against a controversial method of extracting gas saw almost 2000 protesters link hands across the Forth Road Bridge.

Underground coal gasification (UCG) involves setting fire to coal seams under the sea to extract gasses which are then used to generate energy – but critics argue the unconventional process could cause severe environmental damage.

Campaigners were yesterday calling for “a complete ban” on all unconventional gas extraction in Scotland and a 2km buffer zone between any such developments and nearby communities.

Gathering at the Forth Road Bridge at 2pm, protesters linked hands to form a “human chain” in a symbolic effort to lay claim to the Forth – parts of which have previously been earmarked for UCG.

Yesterday’s protest comes after the Scottish Government decided to extend its fracking moratorium to cover UCG, in a move that was welcomed by campaigners.

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said the temporary halt would give time for “full and careful consideration” of the potential impact of the controversial process. He said the government was commissioning wide-ranging research and consultation on unconventional oil and gas techniques.

But Julianna Muir, of campaign group Our Forth, accused the government of “giving with one hand and taking away with the other” after plans to allow test drilling for unconventional coal and gas were simultaneously given the go-ahead last week.

She said local campaigners wanted the moratorium to be a complete ban, adding: “We are very encouraged – we can tell the SNP are listening. But we can also see they are trying to keep the industry on side. They are still sitting on the fence.”

She said the Forth Road Bridge protest had been an “amazing” success, with the line of campaigners stretching from one side of the crossing to the other.

“There was a lot of solidarity from the traffic – every second car beeped and waved, and all the boats passing underneath tooted their horns,” she said.

“[The protest] was to show ownership of the Forth and of the land, and to show that communities are fighting back and we won’t allow our communities to be treated in this way. It was a huge success, and hopefully just the kind of thing the SNP need to see ahead of their conference. Communities are not going to stand back and let this issue be fudged.”