MAKING a Scotland-wide moratorium on fracking permanent through planning powers was the quickest way to stop the gas extraction process from happening, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon insisted today.
That ensured the practice was “banned” across the country, she insisted, despite calls from campaigners who say it needs to be enshrined into law instead.
But she warned that legislative powers over licensing were not yet with the Scottish Parliament, which is why they found a way round it.
However she was challenged by Scottish Green Party Climate and Energy spokesman Mark Ruskell MSP who said he feared the moratorium risked being overturned in future.
He suggested the ban be written into the national framework, just as no nuclear powers stations have been.
Mr Ruskell said: “We are still a long way from turning a planning moratorium into a watertight ban, and concerns remain in threatened communities and indeed amongst the SNP’s own membership that what the Scottish Government has announced isn’t strong enough.
“A letter from a minister to local councils asking them not to make decisions on any fracking applications can be easily overturned by future ministers and governments and may attract a legal challenge from vested interests such as Ineos.
“By contrast, the ban on new nuclear power stations is written into the National Planning Framework, and if a future government wanted to change it, they would have to come back to Parliament, go through proper scrutiny and win the support of most MSPs.
“Ahead of the government debate on fracking later this month, we have an opportunity to strengthen what Scottish Ministers believe is a ban but which starts to fall apart when you look at it.”
Ms Sturgeon though insisted that the government’s move was a ban already, and called on parties to unite behind the decision announced by Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse last week.
She said: “The ban on new nuclear energy in Scotland is done through planning powers and that is exactly what we are proposing for the ban on fracking.
“Let me be clear, because to some ears, it will sound as if some members are dancing on the head of a pin: fracking is being banned in Scotland—end of story.
“There will be no fracking in Scotland, and that position could not be clearer.”
She added: “What Paul Wheelhouse outlined to the chamber earlier this week is an effective way of banning fracking and—as the precedent on nuclear energy demonstrates—is also the quickest way of banning fracking.
“Instead of continuing to have this abstract argument, those who, like me, do not believe that fracking should go ahead in Scotland should welcome the fact that fracking in Scotland is banned.”
Want to learn more? Read: Fracking ban statement from Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse in full