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.”