Scotland to block fracking on environmental grounds

Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish environment and climate change minister, has said there are “no environmental permissions which would allow hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Scotland at this time”.

The comments came as the Scottish Government announced plans to strengthen Scottish Planning Policy relating to onshore unconventional oil and gas.

Due to come into force next year, the policy aims to reinforce environmental and community protection and community consultation guidance in relation to planning applications for unconventional gas extraction.

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

In addition, it says that proposals “should also provide an adequate buffer zone between sites and settlements.”

Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse said it was important that the views of the local communities, and the impact on the environment were given “due consideration” in the planning process.

Currently the UK government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change issue Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDL) in licence rounds which grant exclusivity to operators in the licence area.

However, PEDLs do not give consent for drilling and operators are still required to obtain planning permissions and other licenses before any exploration or development work can be carried out.

Lang Banks, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Scotland director, said: "This is without doubt a set-back for those hoping to exploit shale gas in Scotland. We welcome this commitment and hope it is just the first of several steps ministers will take to begin to close the door on all new fossil fuels developments in Scotland.

"In the interests of tackling climate change and delivering climate justice we urgently need to be leaving fossil fuels, including shale gas, in the ground."

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