Fri 14 Mar, 2014

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian and a member of Holyrood's economy, energy and tourism committee, today (14 March) highlighted the threat facing communities from unconventional gas developments such as fracking.

Today the committee published its report into the National Planning Framework, revealing that during a private voting session only one SNP member was prepared to support measures proposed by the Green MSP to protect local communities.

The first measure would have resulted in a 2 kilometre buffer zone around unconventional gas developments. This was supported by Labour's Margaret McDougall and Richard Baker, and the SNP's Joan McAlpine but defeated by the Conservatives' Murdo Fraser and the SNP's Mike Mackenzie, Chic Brodie and Christian Allard. The SNP's Marco Biagi abstained.

This meant the committee adopted a weaker position of recommending a "robust separation distance".

The second measure would have resulted in a moratorium on unconventional gas developments until appropriate restoration funds were in place. No other member supported Alison Johnstone's proposal, with Conservative, SNP and Labour MSPs voting it down and the SNP's Joan McAlpine abstaining.

This meant the committee adopted a weaker position of recommending "guidance" on "restoration processes".

The details of these votes come ahead of Tuesday's public local inquiry in Falkirk into plans for coalbed methane drilling, and follow the collapse of coal mine restoration funds which have left communities across Scotland counting the cost of environmental devastation.

Alison Johnstone said:

"The report published by the committee underlines the huge uncertainty many communities face from potential gas drilling. The First Minister has rashly described shale gas as an opportunity, and it's disappointing more of his backbenchers don't want to challenge that view.

"In Scotland we have a chance to take a more responsible approach than the UK Coalition. We should be protecting our local communities and our climate from the unnecessary risks of fracking.

"As Canonbie has gas wells imposed on it and Airth faces the prospect of similar drilling I am disappointed we don't have more support in parliament for meaningful protection for our communities."

EET committee report. Vote on buffer zones - page 23. Vote on restoration funds - page 25:
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/newsandmediacentre/74424.aspx

First Minister on "undoubted opportunities" of shale gas, 16 January:
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/OfficialReport/2014-01-16_GQs_and_FMQs.pdf

Scottish Green Party conference agrees moratorium on unconventional gas developments, October 2013:
http://www.scottishgreens.org.uk/uncategorized/gas-moratorium-called-for-at-scottish-greens-conference/

Opponents of a controversial scheme to extract coalbed methane gas from near Airth are appealing for funds so it can fight a public inquiry (Falkirk Herald):
http://www.falkirkherald.co.uk/news/local-news/community-group-needs-cash-to-fight-dart-energy-gas-extraction-plans-1-3280130

Leaks at Canonbie should signal the end for Dart's dirty gas plans (Friends of the Earth):
http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/node/1583

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