MP laments lack of control over fracking

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Angus MP Mike Weir has called for the UK Government to take action now to devolve all powers over fracking in Scotland to the Scottish Parliament, so that all planning and licensing, are dealt with in Scotland.

Speaking during the Second Reading debate on the Infrastructure Bill in the House of Commons Mr Weir made clear that he was opposed to fracking.

He also pointed out the at present planning in respect of fracking lay with local authorities and the Scottish Government whilst the licensing of fracking lay with the UK Government. The Smith Commission has recommended that the powers over licensing be devolved, but that is unlikely to happen until well after the next General Election.

Mr Weir said: “The UK government seem determined to do whatever is necessary to get fracking under way. In his Autumn Statement the Chancellor even promised a Sovereign Wealth Fund of part of the revenue to the North of England. Contrast that with the absolute refusal to countenance any such fund for Scottish offshore Oil and Gas. Clearly they are desperate, which eloquently illustrates the huge concerns there are over this technology.”

“The present law is complex enough but the Infrastructure Bill seeks to introduce a right for frackers to operate under land and homes without the owners’ consent, overturning the right under present law for the matter to be determined by a court should there be disagreement. This is unacceptable since it effectively removes an owners’ right to object to operations under their property.”

“Frankly it is not at all clear how the rights under this bill, under the Petroleum Act 1998, the Mines Act of 1966 and Planning Law interact and the clear and sensible thing to do would be to bring all these matters under the control of the Scottish Government before fracking becomes established.”

“The Smith Commission recommended that all powers in this area come to the Scottish Parliament but, with the best will in the world, even if that is made the top priority of the next government, a transfer is probably at least a year away. A great deal could happen in that time and once fracking is under way it would be very difficult to reverse the process.”

Mr Weir: “The Scottish Government was able to stop new nuclear power stations since the power over these lay directly with Scottish Ministers under the Electricity Act.”

“With fracking the powers lie initially with local authorities and should the Scottish Government seek to prevent them granting permissions or set down standard conditions this would likely lead to a judicial review and endless litigation. This is not sensible.

“A transfer of these powers now would enable a proper consideration of all aspects of fracking whilst it is still at an early stage.”