The Scottish government has effectively banned fracking in the country by saying that it will not support the development of unconventional oil and gas resources.
The decision followed an “extensive period of evidence gathering, public engagement, and dialogue” on the controversial issue, Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse said.
However the decision has been described as “poor” by UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG), an industry association, while chemicals firm Ineos said that the Scottish government had “turned its back on a potential manufacturing and jobs renaissance”.
“[The decision ignores] Scotland’s rich heritage and expertise in oil and gas,” said Ken Cronin, CEO of UKOOG. “It is not based on the evidence from extensive independent research, which clearly states that with appropriate regulatory oversight and monitoring Scotland's regulatory framework is sufficiently robust to manage onshore exploration and production.”
The Scottish government said it had received over 60 000 responses to its four-month public consultation on the exploration of unconventional oil and gas reserves. Around 99 per cent of responses were opposed to fracking, and emphasised its potential long-term impacts on health, the climate and the environment.
“The Scottish government will not support the development of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland,” said Mr Wheelhouse. “Having taken account of the interests of the environment, our economy, public health and the overwhelming majority of public opinion, the decision I am announcing … means fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland.”
The government insists that it has taken a “cautious, evidence-led approach” to the issue of fracking, and that its support for the chemicals and manufacturing sectors in Scotland is “unwavering”.
Ineos, however, said that shale gas represented a vital opportunity for Scotland to revitalise its economy, and that England would now benefit from future investment. “We lead the world in exploration safety, but I fear we will start to see large numbers of Scottish workers leaving the country to find work as the North Sea oil and gas industry continues to decline,” said Ineos Shale Operations Director Tom Pickering.
Ineos announced in 2014 that it would invest £640 million in the UK shale gas sector in order to secure feedstock for its petrochemicals operations in Scotland and Norway.
“Natural gas will be needed by Scotland for the foreseeable future and production from the North Sea continues to decline,” added Pickering. “This decision, which beggars belief, means gas becomes a cost for the Scottish economy instead of an ongoing source of income.
“It speaks volumes about Scottish leadership on the world stage and sends a clear and negative message to any future investors in Scotland.”