This week sees the launch of a pressure group of SNP members against unconventional gas extraction, SMAUG. Its founders say Tolkien’s dragon is
"awakening to save us from the confused priorities that lead us to damage the very resources that we need to live... and protect the wee inhabitants of Middle Earth from the long blight of falling house prices"
SMAUG is calling for the SNP leadership to extend its moratorium on unconventional gas extraction (UGE) to a full ban.
So far, so what? There is a large section, possibly a majority, of SNP members who oppose UGE and would welcome a full ban. However, the SNP leadership seems to have no interest in instigating a ban. They have introduced a moratorium, not a ban just a brief halt while the matter is investigated. This means that if the industry can convince the investigating committee that the supposed benefits of UGE outweigh the evident drawbacks then the SNP leadership will stand back and let them frack away, regardless of the wishes of their membership and the general public.
SNP policy is decided at their autumn conference; any member, branch, or group that wants to have something made policy submits a motion to conference, if it's voted through it becomes policy. This year motions calling for a full ban on UGE were submitted by the SNP Trades Union Group as well as individual branches and members. None of these motions made it on to the final agenda, a full ban on UGE will not be debated, voted on, nor will a ban become official policy. The SNP will go into the 2016 Holyrood election with no policy calling for a full ban on UGE, despite their members wish for a ban.
The Scottish Greens are completely opposed to UGE under any circumstances. Scottish Green MSPs Patrick Harvie and Alison Johnstone have been campaigning against unconventional gas extraction since the 2011 election. Alison led Holyrood’s first debate on the issue in May 2014, proposing a ban. All other parties voted against it. Harvie has said in parliament:
"Unconventional gas extraction, whether it’s fracking or underground coal gasification, isn’t wanted and isn’t needed. Such developments would suck investment and talent away from jobs in the low-carbon, long-lasting industries of the future. Scottish Greens have led the way on this issue and we will continue to push the Scottish Government in the right direction."
There is one party in the Scottish parliament working for a ban on UGE. If you want to ban UGE why back one that doesn’t?