Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Anti-fracking protesters in the streets of Falkirk, Scotland, Sunday 7 December 2014. (Photo: Ric Lander/cc/flickr)

Anti-fracking protesters in the streets of Falkirk, Scotland, Sunday 7 December 2014. (Photo: Ric Lander/cc/flickr)

Could Drilling Moratorium be 'Nail in Coffin' for Fracking in Scotland?

Energy Minister announces halt on new drilling permits until complete examination of health and environmental is done

Lauren McCauley

Citing public health and safety concerns, the Scottish government on Wednesday announced a ban against fracking until "the voices of the communities likely to be most affected are heard."

Introduced by Energy Minister Fergus Ewing, the new policy places an open-ended moratorium on granting permits for unconventional gas drilling in the country.

"Fergus Ewing’s announcement today is huge victory for the communities, individuals and groups who have been campaigning to stop this dirty industry in Scotland," said Dr. Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland. "This moratorium is a very big nail in the coffin for the unconventional gas and fracking industry in Scotland."

Speaking before the Members of Scottish Parliament, or MSPs, at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, Ewing  said: "I want to ensure that the voices of the communities likely to be most affected are heard, and are heard in a more formal and structured way."

"I am therefore announcing today that in addition to the technical work I've referred to on planning, environmental regulation and upon assessing the impact on public health, Scottish ministers will also launch a full public consultation on unconventional oil and gas extraction."

He added: "Given the importance of this work, it would be inappropriate to allow any planning consents in the meantime."

"I'm therefore announcing today a moratorium on the granting of planning consents for all unconventional oil and gas developments. This moratorium will continue until such time as the work I've referred to today has been completed."

Though Ewing's proposal falls short of the outright ban sought by environmentalists and other concerned residents, Dixon said he is confident that any serious examination of the "mounting evidence of health and environmental concerns" will lead to a full ban.

"The Scottish Government has acted decisively today to protect communities across the country and the environment from this unnecessary industry," Dixon continued. "The Government's decision today is testament to the perseverance of people and communities around the country who have tirelessly fought this industry in recent years."

Scotland now joins France, Ireland, the Netherlands and New York State in the list of governments that have some level of ban against the drilling practice, which injects a mixture of sand, water, and an unknown cocktail of chemicals underground to release gas trapped in shale rock formations. Scotland's moratorium comes days after the U.K. Parliament voted overwhelmingly against a proposed U.K.-wide fracking ban.

According to recent polling, just 15 percent of people in Scotland support fracking, while 54 percent are opposed to the practice, the Herald Scotland reports. Less than 8 percent said they'd support fracking it if happened "elsewhere."

World Wildlife Fund Scotland director Lang Banks also welcomed the news, though he warned that it did not completely shut the door on fossil fuel extraction. "It's now time for the Scottish Government to come off the fence and finally rule out the development of shale and other unconventional fossil fuels north of the border," Banks said.

Banks continued: "The climate science is clear, the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground and not burned. Scotland should instead be playing to its natural advantages in clean, green renewable energy."

One point of disappointment for environmental groups is the failure of the moratorium to restrict the practice of underground coal gasification—an extraction method where coal is set fire underground and gas is collected at the surface. This "desperate method" of fossil fuel extraction, says Dixon, has been linked to serious pollution.

He added: "Going after new fossil fuels is the last thing we need in the context of the latest, urgent warnings from climate science, and is not a responsible action for a country trying to meet its targets."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

To Avert Debt Ceiling Calamity, Democrats Urged to Finally Kill the Filibuster

"The solution is to blow up the filibuster at least for debt limit votes, just as Mitch blew it up to pack the Supreme Court for his big donors."

Jake Johnson ·

Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·

Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·

PG&E Charged With 11 Felony Counts—Including Manslaughter—Over 2020 Zogg Fire

"PG&E has a history with a repeated pattern of causing wildfires that is not getting better," said Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett. "It's only getting worse."

Brett Wilkins ·

'Hold My Pearls': Debbie Dingell Lets Marjorie Taylor Green Have It Over Abortion Rights

The Michigan Democrat engaged in a verbal altercation with the far-right Republican lawmaker from Georgia on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Jon Queally ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo