Tommy Sheppard

MP for Edinburgh East

Fracking ban makes me proud of SNP government

fracking-heade_20171011-152644_1

I have never been prouder of our SNP Scottish Government than I was last Tuesday when the Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, made a statement to parliament on fracking. He was responding to a huge public consultation on the issue and he made it crystal clear that fracking would not be part of the energy mix in Scotland.

Not only was this the right decision but the manner in which the government arrived at its position was an exemplar in public policy making. Campaigners, including myself, have been trying to get a ban on fracking for years. But rather than rush into a decision the government has taken the best part of two years to research the evidence, and most importantly, ask the people what they wanted.

There were more than 60,000 responses to the consultation including thousands from Edinburgh. A remarkable 99 per cent were in favour of a ban.

They were right. The process of fracturing the rock underneath our towns and cities by pumping air and chemicals into them at tremendous pressures is fraught with problems. International evidence shows that sometimes this can contaminate the water table and poison the ground above. It can also cause subsidence and reduce property values. 
 
Reports commissioned by the government and made available during the consultation looked not just at the science but the economic aspects. They found that whilst allowing a fracking industry to develop would create some jobs, it actually wasn’t that many. In comparison, a similar investment in renewable energy would create many, many more and without the attendant health and safety problems.

But the biggest arguments against fracking are not to do with the effects on local communities but the effects on our planet. We urgently need to accelerate the switch from reliance on fossil fuels to clean renewable energy. 

25 years ago we believed that oil and gas would be running out about now. But that hasn’t happened. In fact, there’s still plenty of reserves beneath our seas and land. We have a different problem now. We know that we cannot afford to burn all the fossil fuels reserves we have. And besides many would argue they are more important as a feedstock for our chemical and plastics industries.

So in that context developing ever more elaborate means of extracting hydrocarbonsfrom the bowels of the earth is simply daft.

This is a bold and important decision by our government – one which responds to the public’s concerns.

Inevitably though it has attracted critics. Some have argued that it’s not enough to announce a policy, the government must introduce a law. This is posturing on a grand scale and wouldn’t be out of place in Monty Pythons Life of Brian. Why on earth would you pass a law to outlaw something that you weren’t going to do anyway?

On the other hand the right wing supporters of the fracking industry have been sticking their oar in too. Last week’s Daily Mail accused the government of “Nimbyism” – that’s “Not In My Back Yard” for those unfamiliar with the acronym. Leaving aside the mindset that sees Scotland as anyone’s backyard, this is a myopic misreading of the situation.

Far from being parochial the fracking ban puts Scotland at the heart of a growing international movement against this technology.

Now that we have clear position in Scotland the SNP will be pressing the case at Westminster for the UK government to take a similar sensible position. Throughout many parts on England, including near some of the most beautiful National Parks, communities are up in arms at the advance of the frackers. We shall be standing with them to call a halt and demanding that a UK-wide review takes place. Who knows, maybe even the Daily Mail will support our campaign.
 
First published in the Edinburgh Evening News - 11th October 2017
Devolved Powers Debate in Westminster Hall
Scotland Bans Fracking
 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Already Registered? Login Here
Guest
Monday, 11 December 2017

Tommy's Blog Articles

Tommy Sheppard
30 November 2017
My work for you in Edinburgh East
Tommy's Blog

I used my Evening News column this month to talk about fireworks following the extreme antisocial behaviour on bonfire night. I've also written to the Minister asking for the UK Government to toughen up licensing laws. And if they aren't willing to do that, devolve power over fireworks to the Scottish Parliament so they can act. Read the full article here.

 

Tommy Sheppard
30 November 2017
Tommy's Blog
My work for you in Westminster
The EU Withdrawal Bill entered its committee stage this month in the House of Commons.  As it is a constitutional bill it is considered by a committee of the whole house – in other words all MPs consider it in the main chamber. While hundreds of amendments were tabled, only a few are selected for a vote each day. There will be eight days of debate in total, three of which took place in November. O...
Tommy Sheppard
23 November 2017
Tommy's Blog
My work for you in Westminster
So the EU Withdrawal Bill was back in the Commons for Day 3 of the committee stage this week and, as promised, I’m writing to update you on what happened.Before I talk about the Bill itself, you might be interested in the events of Monday’s Ways and Means debate. Ways and Means is a traditional term for taxes or other charges levied on the public in order to fund Government spending. And while not...
Tommy Sheppard
16 November 2017
Tommy's Blog
My work for you in Westminster
I know how difficult it can be to not only keep up with what is happening as Brexit proceeds, but to understand the antiquated political systems that make up the UK parliament. So I will be sharing regular updates as the Bill makes its way through parliament. As you may be aware, the Bill entered its committee stage this week in the House of Commons. That means MPs debate specific aspects of the B...
Tommy Sheppard
09 November 2017
My work for you in Edinburgh East
Tommy's Blog
Media
All over Scotland last weekend families enjoyed watching the fireworks.  The spectacle of fire and colour brought happiness to many – young and old. The same was true in Edinburgh. All over the city – and especially at Meadowbank – majestic displays thrilled the crowds.But in a few parts of the city a tiny minority set out to cause havoc and intimidate local people. In a few places in north and ea...