Energy minister Fergus Ewing has failed to rule out fracking from his government’s draft energy strategy.
On two occasions Ewing was asked would he introduce or rule out fracking in the next parliament if his government was re-elected. The minister has pledged to publish a draft energy strategy by the end of the year.
Scottish Labour environmental justice spokeswoman Sarah Boyack asked: “Will the minister tell us now whether fracking will be part of the Scottish Government’s energy policy later this year?”
In his reply Ewing failed to address Sarah Boyack’s question on whether fracking will be introduced.
The subject was raised again by the Scottish Conservatives’ energy spokesman Murdo Fraser.
Fraser said: “The Scottish Government’s own expert scientific panel concluded as long ago as July 2014 that fracking could be conducted safely in Scotland if properly controlled and regulated.
“Why isn’t the Scottish Government listening to its own scientists?”
The energy minister did not rule out fracking and insisted that there was a debate to be had on the subject.
Fergus Ewing said: “Unlike that side (Tories) where they are gun ho for fracking. That side (Labour) where somewhat belatedly and contrary to the position down south they’ve come out against it.
“We think we should take a moderate approach based on analysing the evidence and thereafter having a debate and coming up with a conclusion with involvement and consultation with the people of Scotland.”
Speaking after the debate Sarah Boyack said: “The SNP government has missed another opportunity to back a ban on fracking.
“Fergus Ewing refused to rule out fracking from the SNP Government’s future energy strategy, in fact he makes clear he expects a debate on the issue when the SNP Government’s temporary freeze on fracking ends in 2017.”
The Scottish Greens also criticised the minister’s non-commitment to a permanent ban on fracking.
Patrick Harvie MSP, Scottish Greens co-convener, said:
“Another day, another opportunity missed by the SNP leadership to do the right thing and ban fracking now. Fergus Ewing’s non-committal approach will provide no comfort for communities across the Central Belt at risk from this extreme form of fossil fuel drilling.
“Only the Scottish Greens have consistently called for a ban. Ahead of the election the SNP is failing to provide voters with the clarity they deserve, while Labour claim their last-minute policy change is about the climate, yet they are banging the drum for more oil and gas from the North Sea. Neither party has a credible position.”
Several meetings have taken place between government officials and Ineos – the main bidder for fracking developments in Scotland. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met with Ineos on the day the moratorium was introduced while John Swinney has met Ineos officials on two occasions in February and April 2015.
However the Scotttish Government dismissed accusations that they have failed to ban fracking.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “No fracking can take place in Scotland as the Scottish Government has a moratorium on unconventional oil and gas. This careful, considered approach has been supported by both industry and environmental groups
“The Scottish Government is carrying out one of the world’s most wide-ranging research programmes into the environmental, climate change, public health and economic issues associated with fracking in order to fully inform public debate. It will also conduct an extensive public consultation which will allow interested parties to express their views.”
If the SNP are returned to government after May’s Holyrood election a draft energy strategy is expected to be published by the end of the year.