The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Fury as the SNP delays decision on fracking until after the election
MINISTERS have decided to delay a vital decision on fracking to avoid a backlash from voters.
A senior SNP source admitted it would not be taken until after next year’s Scottish election.
The Scottish Government is terrified it will be punished at the ballot box, whichever way it goes. So it will defer a decision until after May’s poll, which it is expected to win.
The admission drew an outraged response from the opposition.
Scottish Labour, which is antifracking, accused the SNP of ‘kicking the issue deep into the long grass’, while the pro-fracking Scots Tories claimed the Government was ‘running scared’.
The Government imposed a temporary ban on fracking in January. Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said it would remain in place until a full consultation had been completed. But he did not publish a timetable – and it has emerged that Ministers want to extend it until after the election.
The senior source said gathering information would take ‘a long time’ and ‘no one should expect a decision’ before next May.
Fracking involves extracting gas deep underground by forcing water into fissures at high pressures and fracturing the rock.
Some Scottish Ministers are understood to be sympathetic to fracking, believing it could lead to a second North Sea-type boom.
Others are more sceptical, fearing it may harm the environment.
Earlier this month, Jim Ratcliffe, billionaire owner of petrochemical giant Ineos, said he believed the Scottish Government was sympathetic to fracking.
But anti-fracking campaigners are putting pressure on Ministers to extend the ban.
Scottish Labour energy spokesman Lewis Macdonald said it was impossible to say where the SNP stood on fracking, adding: ‘They claim to be opposed and campaigned on an anti-fracking platform during the General Election, but it appears as a Govern- ment they want to kick the issue deep into the long grass.
‘We have seen the billionaire boss of Ineos claim he expects the SNP Government to give fracking the go-ahead, while SNP activists wear badges proclaiming “Frack off”. It’s a mess.
‘Scottish Labour has always been clear on fracking. We would give locals the final say on whether it should go ahead in their area.’
Scottish Tory energy spokesman Murdo Fraser said: ‘It’s no surprise the SNP are running scared of a decision on fracking until after next year’s election. ‘There have been hints recently the Scottish Government are privately pro-fracking, but local candidates run on an anti-fracking platform. The SNP need to stop playing politics with this issue.
‘The evidence shows there is a need for a domestic shale gas industry in Scotland. The SNP need to deal with the facts instead of burying them before an election for their own political gain.’