Oil spill: Greens urge moratorium on deepwater drilling

For immediate release 21 August 2011

The Green MSPs today urged Scottish and UK Ministers to look again at European proposals for a moratorium on deepwater oil drilling in Scotland's waters given the ongoing oil spill from Shell's Gannet Alpha platform. Greens are fiercely critical of the inadequate level of information provided by Shell, by the fact the company took 48 hours to own up to the problem, and by their failure to publish response plans to accidents of this sort.

Last year, efforts at a European level to agree a moratorium on deep-water drilling were blocked by a group of MEPs that included all six of Scotland's representatives to the European Parliament: SNP, Labour, Tory and Lib Dem. The Gannet Alpha leak has occurred in relatively shallow waters, and, the party argues, if exploration takes place in the deep waters around Shetland, leaks of this sort or worse will be both more likely and harder to control.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

"This is the most substantial leak in the North Sea since the Gulf of Mexico disaster, and Shell have clearly failed the test. They have a duty to the public and to the authorities to keep people properly informed - instead information about this incident had to be dragged out of them last Friday, and the leak is still not completely under control. We have no idea what their formal response plans are to similar incidents, because they refuse to publish them, and it will be essential to establish who knew what and when.

"The four other parties at Holyrood sent representatives to Europe to argue that deepwater drilling in Scotland's waters is safe. Now we see how easily accidents can happen even in much shallower water, and how long it can take to resolve this sort of incident. It's just luck that means we're not facing a disaster on a much larger scale, and it's time to look again at a proper moratorium on deepwater drilling. In the longer term, Scotland needs to move beyond oil dependency and instead stake a claim to lead on renewables. That's the only way to guarantee that this kind of accident becomes a thing of the past."