SCOTLAND’S Energy Minister has announced a moratorium on granting planning consents for fracking developments amid calls in Edinburgh for an outright ban across the Capital.
Fergus Ewing MSP declared a freeze on new fracking projects to allow a full public consultation on the controversial issue and said further research would be carried out into the technique to look at planning, environmental regulation and the impact on public health.
Environmental campaigners had called on the Scottish Government to rule out hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, for shale gas after a move to introduce a UK-wide moratorium was heavily defeated at Westminster on Monday.
Holyrood currently has control over planning, with powers over onshore oil and gas licensing and mineral access rights due to be transferred as part of the Smith Commission agreement on further devolution.
Fergus Ewing said: “This moratorium will continue until such time as the work I’ve referred to today has been completed.
“I will keep parliament advised of the progress of that work, a direction will be sent to all Scottish planning authorities today to give effect to that policy.”
Environmental campaigners welcomed the moratorium but repeated calls for a full ban.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said the announcement was a “huge victory” for protestors campaigning to stop fracking.
“This moratorium is a very big nail in the coffin for the unconventional gas and fracking industry in Scotland,” he said. “Any serious examination of the mounting evidence will inevitably lead to a ban.
“The Scottish Government has acted decisively today to protect communities across the country and the environment from this unnecessary industry.”
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “There is overwhelming public opinion in favour of cleaner forms of energy and a sufficient body of evidence why unconventional oil and gas are neither good for people or the planet.
“While this rightly puts a hold on fracking for now, we hope the final decision will be to rule it out completely.”
The move comes as the Edinburgh Greens moved to ban the gas-extracting technique in the Capital entirely.
While few sites in Edinburgh have been earmarked for fracking they fear land next to West Lothian and around the Forth seabed could be targeted.
Councillor Chas Booth, Green environment spokesman, said: “Over the last week I have heard a lot of bluster and bluff from senior Labour and SNP politicians, with weasel words about moratoriums and conditions, all of which leave the door open for fracking. It is time to send out a clear message: fracking and similar techniques are outdated follies which are not needed, not wanted and must be rejected.”