Scottish Green MSPs are calling on ministers to amend the proposed 2015-16 Scottish budget to create a new fund for local authorities facing a wave of controversial fracking developments.
This Wednesday (21 Jan) MSPs vote on the principles of the draft budget and Green MSPs Patrick Harvie and Alison Johnstone are outlining their priorities.
The UK Government is considering awarding licenses to gas drilling firms for a huge swathe of Scotland, from Argyll and Ayrshire in the west to Aberdeenshire and East Lothian in the east. Planning authorities will face complex assessments yet many have no clear policy on the issue and could be open to challenge by developers.
This week West Lothian Council agreed to write to the Scottish Government calling for a moratorium on unconventional gas, following a similar move by North Lanarkshire prompted by independent councillor Frances McGlinchey, who recently joined the Scottish Greens. Both are Labour-controlled councils. Last year following a Green debate at Holyrood Labour MSPs voted against a ban on fracking, as did SNP, Conservative and Libdem members.
Scottish Green campaigners are urging communities concerned about fracking to lobby their MSPs to sign Alison Johnstone's parliamentary motion, which calls for a ban.
Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian, said:
"Local authorities are on the frontline of this potential new wave of destructive development. If the Scottish Government is serious about its position on fracking - that is to put faith in the planning framework - it needs to step up and support our completely unprepared planning authorities.
"Ministers have in the past provided local authorities with funding to deal with high levels of windfarm determinations. Why not support councils facing fracking applications?
"The Scottish Government has options including underspends and consequential funds, so let's see if they take this opportunity to help shut the door to fracking. The sooner we shut down this dangerous distraction the better, and we can instead focus on investment in renewables, retrofit jobs and apprenticeships."
Other budget priorities outlined by the Green MSPs ahead of Wednesday's debate include:
-Making the repair and retrofit of poorly insulated and glazed homes a national infrastructure investment priority, creating thousands of jobs.
-Expansion of the Modern Apprenticeship scheme to include energy efficiency.
-Using the underspent Renewable Energy Investment Fund to support the huge potential in the wave industry.
-Improve air quality by investing in walking and cycling infrastructure and doubling the Scottish Green Bus Fund which provides low emissions vehicles.
-Exploring the creation of a Fans First Fund to provide loans to supporter groups seeking to purchase their local football club.