Scotland is to impose a permanent ban on fracking, energy minister Paul Wheelhouse told the Scottish Parliament today.
The Scottish Government announced a moratorium on the controversial shale gas drilling technique in January 2015, but ministers had been debating if this should be made permanent.
Mr Wheelhouse in a Holyrood statement that ministers had a “moral responsibility” to tackle climate change and revealed that 99 per cent of respondents to a 60,000-strong consultation were against fracking.
He said ministers had a duty to act in the “best interests of the country as a whole.”
He added: “I can confirm that the decision of the Scottish Government is that we will not support the development of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland.”
Scotland’s biggest industrial site at Grangemouth relies on fracked gas shipped in from the US to power its petrochemical plant as North Sea supplies decrease.
Owners Ineos hit out at the decision today after the Government’s own report indicated that fracking could be done safely.
Tom Pickering, Operations Director at INEOS Shale, said: ‘It is a sad day for those of us who believe in evidence-led decision making. The Scottish Government has turned its back on a potential manufacturing and jobs renaissance.”
Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, was also critical of the decision:
“The Scottish Government ignores the advice of its own independent experts and prefers a future where gas will have to be imported with the damage that will do to the economy and the environment. It turns its back on job creation, skills development, an increase in tax receipts and investment in communities. Over the last 20 years, 30 wells have been drilled and produce gas within the Central Belt, without any impact to the natural environment or public health.
A final vote on the full ban will come before MSPs after the Holyrood recess, but it will be passed with the backing of the Greens, Labour and Liberal Democrats who all back a ban.
The controversial technique sees methane gas extracted from deep underground shale rocks, but has prompted safety fears from environmental groups.
Elisabeth Whitebread, Energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “The Scottish Government ban on fracking is a huge win for thousands of people who have campaigned against fracking for six years. Unlike Westminster, Holyrood is listening to public opinion. We already have more gas than we can afford to burn, and as well as damaging the climate, fracking will cause local noise, air and light pollution.”
Welcoming the ban, Dr Sam Gardner, acting director of WWF Scotland, said: “It’s excellent news the Scottish Government has listened to the thousands of people, campaigners, and politicians across the country who have been calling for a permanent ban to fracking.
“The climate science is clear. The vast majority of fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground. It’s fantastic Scottish Ministers agree that we need to start placing them off limits.”
But the decision came under fire from the Tory opposition at Parliament who say the fracking could have provided a potential energy and economic boom at a time of struggling growth.
“The announcement of a ban today is a massive slap in the face to Scottish academia, engineers, geologists, industry experts and many more highly skillled individuals who have been dealt a heavy blow here today.
“In a can do Scotland, know worldwide for its pioneering technologies, safety and responsibility, what kind of message does the cabinet secretary think he is sending out to those in these areas of academia and scientific research and those who work in the industry and who jobs have now been put at risk as well as those who could have been attracted to Scotland to work in this new industry?
Labour environment spokesperson Claudia Beamish, who has a Bill gong through Parliament to impose a legal ban, welcomed the decision but pledged to press on with her proposed legislation.
“This announcement is a result of Labour pressure and specifically my proposal to change the law to ban fracking in Scotland.
“But extending the moratorium indefinitely is not as strong as a full legal ban, and could be overturned at any point at the whim of a minister.
“These proposals don’t go far enough. They do not offer the protection of my Bill. That’s why I want the SNP government to work with me to ensure a full legal ban.”