Fracking campaign gathers momentum

Below is a copy of an opinion piece I wrote for the Evening News on 1st November:

The campaign against fracking is getting louder each day. People realise that it’s a distraction from the task of growing the number of secure jobs in new, clean industries in Scotland.

Just this week, the UK Government closed bidding on licences for companies to explore for unconventional or ‘hard to get’ fossil fuels across 20,000 square kilometres of central Scotland, including most of the land surrounding the Firth of Forth.

Unsurprisingly, the Greens have opposed the development of unconventional fossil fuels from day one. Let’s not jeopardise Scotland’s exciting renewable energy boom, which is creating thousands of jobs. More and more communities are starting to develop their own renewables projects, securing themselves a financial income as well as energy from a clean source. We need to keep political and financial minds focused on supporting this greener future, rather than firing up another round of polluting fossil fuels.

There are many myths about the potential of fracking to cut energy prices or help the climate but they just don’t stand up to scrutiny. We’re in a very different situation from the USA and all the evidence shows that Scotland’s future is best served by clean energy and better insulated homes.

I held the first Scottish Parliament debate on fracking earlier this year and called for a straightforward ban on new projects, but was voted down by every other party. The Scottish Government has the powers to stop projects going forward, but it continues to see fracking as an opportunity rather than a risk. I also proposed a 2km buffer zone to create a barrier between any drilling and communities, but I was narrowly defeated in the Parliament’s Energy Committee.

The experiences of families in America and Australia where fracking is established show me that our communities have every right to be concerned about the prospect of local pollution and the associated health impacts. I’ve been out meeting people from West to East Lothian and they’re particularly alarmed at the UK Government clearing the way for fracking by removing your right to object if pipelines go under your property, and they want the Scottish Government to clear up its position too.

It’s time for the SNP to come down clearly on one side of this debate. We do need a new industrial policy to increase employment and opportunities across central Scotland, but it doesn’t need to start with fracking