Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald has slammed Conservative energy spokesperson Murdo Fraser MSP following the Tory MSP’s claims that Scotland should “embrace” fracking (hydraulic fracturing) for shale gas which he claimed would “enhance Grangemouth’s prospects.”

The comments by the Tory MSP were linked in the national press to the current live application for coal bed methane extraction by Dart Energy in the Airth area of Falkirk district, despite the fact that coal bed methane would not be suitable for operations at the Grangemouth petro-chemical plant.

Commenting on Murdo Fraser’s comment, Angus MacDonald MSP said:

“It is clear the gung-ho UK Tory policy of charging ahead with fracking for shale gas in England has been embraced by Scottish Tories at Holyrood. There are too many unanswered questions at the moment with regard to the environmental impact of fracking and we must not rush into something without taking due regard of any risks. Thankfully, there are no environmental permissions which would allow hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Scotland at this time.”

Last month the Scottish Government announced that it plans to strengthen Scottish Planning Policy as it relates to onshore unconventional oil and gas.

The new Scottish Planning Policy, which comes into force next year, will reinforce environmental and community protection and community consultation guidance in relation to planning applications for unconventional gas extraction. It also introduces the need for buffer zones in relation to such planning applications.

Amongst the changes to the policy it states that the planning system must “minimise the impacts of extraction on local communities, built and natural heritage, and the water environment.”

In addition the new policy says that proposals “should also provide an adequate buffer zone between sites and settlements.”

Angus MacDonald continued:

“I warmly welcome the additional safeguards being introduced by the Scottish Government

“In considering such proposals it is important that the views of the local communities, and the impact on the environment are given due consideration in the planning process. Last month’s announcement of a strengthening of the planning rules in relation to unconventional oil and gas, through provision of buffer zones, highlights that that the Scottish Government listens to local communities and those calling for stronger environmental protection.

“As an MSP it is frustrating for me that the UK Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change has the power to issue Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDL) in licence rounds which grant exclusivity to operators in the licence area. This power should be devolved to the Scottish Government as soon as possible. These licences however do not give consent for drilling and operators are still required to obtain planning permissions and a suite of other licenses before any exploration or development work can be carried out.

“As well as the planning process each proposal will be considered through the appropriate regulatory regimes and SEPA’s guidance. Proposals for coalbed methane or shale gas production in Falkirk district and Scotland will be studied on their merits, informed by reliable and substantive information on availability of resources and the manner and practicalities of their exploitation.”

Copyright © Angus MacDonald MSP 2017

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