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Scottish fracking ban faces legal challenge from INEOS

Words: Roger Milne
Exploratory drilling / iStock

Chemical firm INEOS has announced that it will seek a judicial review of the Scottish government’s ‘effective ban’ on fracking as part of the administration’s opposition to onshore unconventional oil and gas development in Scotland.

Last October energy minister Paul Wheelhouse told MSPs that the administration had written to local authorities across Scotland to make it clear that the direction over a moratorium introduced in January 2015 would remain in place indefinitely.

“We will use planning powers to ensure that any unconventional oil and gas applications are considered in line with our position of not supporting unconventional oil and gas,” said the minister. This move came after a consultation exercise that overwhelmingly backed a ban.

Wheelhouse said 60,535 people had responded to the consultation. More than 99 per cent of them had opposed fracking.

INEOS, which holds two licences for fracking in Scotland, said it believed the ban was unlawful and a “misuse of ministerial power”.

Tom Pickering, operations director at INEOS Shale, said: “The decision in October was a major blow to Scottish science and its engineering industry, as well as being financially costly to INEOS, other businesses and indeed the nation. We have serious concerns about the legitimacy of the ban and have therefore applied to the Court of Sessions to ask that it review the competency of the decision to introduce it.”

An expert report commissioned by the government had concluded that shale gas production could be regulated safely.

A report by the British Geological Survey has suggested that Scotland’s Midland Valley could contain trillions of cubic feet of shale gas – enough to power Scotland’s needs for decades to come.

Image credit | iStock