Oil & Gas

The Scottish Government’s news release “Scottish Government says no to fracking” says:

The Scottish Government has announced that it will not support the development of Unconventional Oil and Gas in Scotland, meaning there is an effective ban on fracking in Scotland.

Public Consultation

The announcement follows public consultation which received over 60,000 responses (half of those were signatories to petitions). This is the second largest ever response to a Scottish Government consultation.

Overall, approximately 99% of the consultation responses were opposed to fracking and fewer than 1% were in favour.

Key considerations

In his statement, the Minister referred to:

  • particular concerns over the insufficiency of epidemiological evidence on health impacts highlighted by Health Protection Scotland.
  • the conclusion of the Committee on Climate Change, that unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland would make meeting our existing climate change targets more challenging.
  • just 0.1% annually would on average be added to Scottish GDP should fracking be given the go-ahead.
  • activity would be concentrated in and around former coalfields and oil shale fields in the central belt, which are among the most densely populated areas of Scotland.

Planning powers

The mechanics of the “effective ban” are interesting (maybe only to lawyers).

Planning powers are to be used, as licensing powers have yet to be transferred to the Scottish Government.

The Chief Planner has written to planning authorities:

The Scottish Government will continue to use planning powers to give effect to this policy. The Town and Country Planning (Notification of Applications) (Unconventional Oil or Gas) (Scotland) (Number 2) Direction 2015, which gave effect to the moratorium on unconventional oil and gas, will continue to remain in force.

The Direction requires planning authorities to notify the Scottish Government:

  • of receipt of a planning application for unconventional oil and gas development
  • if they intend to grant planning permission for such development

It therefore appears that the “effective ban” is intended to operate through refusal of planning permission, either by planning authorities having regard to the ban, or by the Scottish Ministers exercising their call-in power.

Neil Collar

Neil Collar

Partner at Brodies LLP
Neil is a partner at Brodies LLP and consistently rated as one of Scotland’s leading planning lawyers. He is well known for both his planning inquiry advocacy and his advisory work. Neil has a particular interest in renewable energy developments.
Neil Collar