FRIENDS of the Earth Scotland are calling on the Scottish Government to push ahead with a complete ban on fracking – or risk seeing its controversial use being railroaded through by Westminster post Brexit.
Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said they are “alarmed” to learn Holyrood could face a power grab from London in areas of environmental protection, fracking licensing, fishing and farming.
It has emerged those may be transferred to the UK Government at the point of Brexit – including decisions over fracking.
Dr Dixon said that would not only undermine a devolved Scotland’s reputation as a leading nation on green policies, but runs the risk of having policies supported by a Tory-led UK Parliament administration pushed through.
And he called on Holyrood to act swiftly over fracking in particular.
He said: “The apparent move to take back powers that have only just come to Scotland on fracking licensing is disturbing, since it comes from a UK Government which is desperately enthusiastic for this disastrous technique.
“There is huge opposition to fracking across Scotland, with over 60,000 people responding to a recent consultation, the vast majority calling for an outright ban.
“The Scottish Government must act swiftly to ban fracking before this most powerful route to stop the fracking industry is jeopardised by Brexit negotiations.”
Dr Dixon also warned that any move to dilute Scotland’s influence over the environment would be a huge set-back for the jation.
He said: “Devolution means that Scotland is already different from the rest of the UK.
“We have set higher standards for air quality and tougher targets for renewable energy, made different choices on dealing with waste and have a process which will hopefully lead to a ban on fracking.
“Any plan to move control of these areas to Westminster after Brexit is alarming, the whole point of devolution has been that relevant decisions would be made that suit the specific circumstances in Scotland.
“Devolution has been good for Scotland’s environment, we have higher ambition on renewable energy, on tackling climate change, on dealing with pollution in our cities and losing control in these areas would be a huge setback for efforts to meet these goals.”
The comments came after the SNP published a list of areas in which the UK would have control after Brexit.
His intervention also follows a study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh which claims fracking is not economically viable in the UK – in particular Scotland.
The university study suggests UK oil and gas reserves may last only a decade and are now entering their final decade of production.
But it also found that that fracking will be barely economically feasible in the UK, especially in Scotland, because of a lack of sites with suitable geology.
That, it claims, would mean the UK having to import all the oil and gas it needs.
Researchers instead recommend a move towards greater use of renewable energy sources, particularly those involving offshore wind and advanced solar energy technologies.
It is strongly urged that the UK Government’s ongoing energy cost report – the high-profile Helm Review – should take stock of the projected shortfall in resource availability and how this might be addressed.
The study, in The Edinburgh Geologist, is published by the Edinburgh Geological Society.
Professor Roy Thompson, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said: “The UK urgently needs a bold energy transition plan, instead of trusting to dwindling fossil fuel reserves and possible fracking.
“We must act now and drive the necessary shift to a clean economy with integration between energy systems.”
He added: “There needs to be greater emphasis on renewables, energy storage and improved insulation and energy efficiencies.”
Want to learn more? Read: Letter from Michael Russell to Finance and Constitution Committee