Petrochemical giant Ineos has lost its legal challenge to the Scottish Government’s “ban” on fracking at the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court.
Ineos and Aberdeen firm ReachCSG took Scottish ministers to court over their decision to convert a moratorium on the controversial gas extraction technique into an indefinite, effective ban and had asked the court to declare that Scottish ministers acted unlawfully in doing so, arguing they exceeded their powers and lacked the legal competence to impose such a ban.
However, Lord Pentland ruled that the Ineos position was based on a “series of fundamental misunderstandings of the Scottish Government’s position” and refused the challenge.
Lord Pentland further found that since a decision had not yet been made, INEOS’s claim for compensation on the basis of a breach of its human rights was premature.
Scottish Government Minister for Business, Energy and Innovation Paul Wheelhouse said: “I welcome the Court of Session’s ruling on this important issue, which has been a cause of acute concern in communities across Scotland.
“This decision vindicates the extensive process of research and consultation which the Scottish Government has undertaken since 2015.
“As I set out in October, our preferred position is not to support Unconventional Oil and Gas extraction in Scotland, and that position remains unchanged.
“I have repeatedly set out to parliament that we would undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) ahead of finalising that position and that approach has been endorsed by the overwhelming majority of the Scottish Parliament.
“The work to complete the SEA and a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment is currently underway and the findings will be carefully considered.
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“In the meantime, a moratorium is in place which means no local authority can grant planning permission and Ministers would defer any decision on any planning application that did come forward until the policymaking process is completed. The practical effect of the current moratorium and the policymaking process which is underway to finalise our position is that no fracking can take place in Scotland at this time.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland Head of Campaigns Mary Church said: “We are delighted that INEOS has lost its challenge against the Scottish Government’s ‘effective ban’ on fracking. Today’s ruling will come as a huge relief to the thousands of people who have fought to stop fracking in Scotland, particularly those faced with the prospect of living near this dirty, damaging industry.
“INEOS should listen to the people and parliament of Scotland who have made it clear that there is no support for fracking, and give up on its plans to trash the central belt and the climate.
“Support for a ban on fracking from communities on the frontline of this industry, people the length and breadth of Scotland, and almost all the parties at Holyrood is overwhelming. There is little doubt that a strategic environmental assessment will support a ban on fracking given the mountains of evidence about the risks of the unconventional oil and gas industry to our environment, climate and people’s health.
“We urge the Scottish Government to move forward with its decision making process on fracking as swiftly as possible and use the powers now available to them to legislate for a full ban, and draw a line under the issue of unconventional oil and gas extraction for good.”
More to follow