The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Fury as the SNP de­lays de­ci­sion on frack­ing un­til af­ter the elec­tion

- By Hamish Mac­donell Printed and dis­trib­uted by PressReade­r

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.’

 ??  ?? NO TIME SCALE: Fer­gus Ewing
NO TIME SCALE: Fer­gus Ewing

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