Fracking: Team Scottish Labour stands up for robust environmental controls

In July 2014 it was revealed that parts of Kincardine and Mearns could be opened up for fracking, after they were included in the 14th onshore licensing round by the UK Government Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Responding to concerns raised about this by local residents, Scottish Labour councillors Alison Evison and Raymond Christie pushed for a policy statement on fracking to be included in the next Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan.

This resulted in Aberdeenshire councillors agreeing to state in the Development Plan that any future applications for fracking operations would be considered properly through the application of policies on protecting resources, natural heritage and landscape. This would ensure that the interests of local communities would be given due consideration.

It was extra reassuring when the Scottish Labour Leader Jim Murphy went further, stating that:

“If I am elected First Minister in 2016 there will be no onshore fracking in Scotland until it has been shown beyond all doubt that it can be carried out safely… The SNP Government in Edinburgh already has a veto over fracking through planning and permitting. The First Minister should use these powers now to stop any fracking taking place in Scotland.”

After much pressure, the UK Government did a U-turn in late January and agreed to accept Labour’s amendment to the Infrastructure Bill introduce new protections before fracking can go ahead.

And this week, Labour has achieved further progress on this issue, with the news that the Government will not issue new licenses for onshore oil and gas extraction in Scotland.

Tom Greatrex MP, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Energy Minister said:

“After months of pressure, the Government have finally given way to Scottish Labour’s demands that it respect the findings of the Smith Commission and suspend any new fracking licenses in Scotland. Only last month, the Government voted against a Scottish Labour amendment to devolve licensing to Scotland – now they have U-turned and given way to Scottish Labour’s demands.”

“In Scotland, Jim Murphy has also set out the triple-lock system to stop fracking. Under a Scottish Labour Government, there would be no fracking without a local referendum, until the lessons are learned from the rest of the UK and until there has been a comprehensive review of baseline conditions. These are concrete measures that introduce much tighter controls on shale gas activity than the SNP’s temporary moratorium.

“While eight out of 10 homes still rely on gas for heating, shale gas may have a role to play in displacing some of the gas we currently import and improving our energy security. But that potential benefit cannot come at the expense of robust environmental protections or our climate change commitments.”

News for Portlethen’s Cloch 1 March 2015

The challenges facing the Oil Industry are having an immediate effect on many local people as jobs are being cut and as the future is becoming more uncertain. It matters here because in January 2015, there were 12,270 jobs in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine dependent on the oil industry. In February, I attended the Oil Summit in Aberdeen, along with other local government leaders, members of the Scottish and Westminster governments, unions and the industry itself. I hope that the positive discussions at the summit will lead to real  actions being taken to protect local employment, to maintain worker safety, and to encourage investment in our local economy.

Despite this context, developments in Portlethen are continuing. The recent Aberdeenshire consultation into school catchment areas in the Portlethen Area attracted a terrific response as soon as it became live, showing officers that there is a real local interest in primary school matters. The results of the consultation will help guide the decision to be made about the school zones which will operate from August 2016.

The PDCC organised a very productive meeting about Nicol Park in January, which I was happy to assist by securing the participation of key Aberdeenshire officers. It was great to hear from the officers that money will be spent improving the drainage at the park. I will continue to offer support to the community group, which has been formed to take projects in the Park forward.

There was unanimous support at Area Committee in December for a grant from the Area Budget to the Portlethen Men’s Shed. This money should help the group undertake the essential preparatory work to get the Shed underway.

There are continuing local concerns about the bus services through Portlethen and I was able to raise these at a recent meeting of Aberdeenshire’s Policy and Resources Committee. As a result, officers from the Public Transport Unit are arranging a meeting with the top management of Stagecoach to try to reach an acceptable solution.

The North Kincardine Public Art Project is moving forward with ideas which will promote local walking and cycling routes. This is timely, as the North East Scotland transport group, NESTRANS, has recently appointed Kathryn MacKay as a Cycling Development Officer. Kathryn tells me that the National Cycle Network routes celebrate their 20th anniversary this year and so there is wider interest in projects such as the one being developed by the Art Project.

A development which will affect everyone who uses adult health and social care services from Aberdeenshire or the NHS is the new Integrated Service which will be established from April 2015, in the form of a Partnership between the two organisations. The draft Integration Scheme can be viewed on the NHS Grampian website. It is intended that the partnership will “enhance, strengthen and develop” the services currently delivered. I have attended some of the planning meetings for this and have seen how all involved are totally committed to creating a successful partnership.

Finally – some news from across in Maryculter, where the local Maryculter Woodlands Trust are working on a project to buy the local wood from the Forestry Commission for the community. You might like to take a look at their web-site at maryculterwoods.com, as they do think that being able to maintain the woods as a wild area will create a resource from which many people, including from this area, can benefit.

Yours
Alison Evison
Cllr.a.evison@aberdeenshire.gov.uk Telephone 07855682845
Facebook Alison Evison: Scottish Labour in North Kincardine Twitter @Alison2812
Surgeries Portlethen Academy on the 2nd Monday of every month 7pm -8pm (excluding July and August) Web-site: http://www.alisonevisonscottishlabour.com