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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-17504: Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife)

Scottish Green Party

Date lodged: 27 June 2018

To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to question S5W-16950 by Paul Wheelhouse on 12 June 2018, whether (a) it will use its new powers to withdraw the two existing fracking licences at the earliest opportunity and (b) PEDL 162 will not be renewed when it expires on 30 June 2018.

Answered by: Paul Wheelhouse 9 July 2018

The Scottish Government welcomes the devolution of the powers to issue and manage onshore oil and gas licences to Scotland from
9 February 2018.

While Energy Policy remains a reserved matter under the Scotland Act 1998, the licence powers transferred to Scotland through sections 47 to 49 of the Scotland Act 2016, and related subordinate legislation, devolve to Scottish Ministers a range of powers over the administration of onshore oil and gas licences.

I can confirm the Scottish Government received a request for an extension to PEDL 162 from licence-holders INEOS Upstream Ltd. and Reach Coal Seam Gas Ltd. in late April 2018. As a competent licensing authority, it would be a dereliction of our responsibility not to consider this request, taking into account all the relevant factors and to assess the application under the legislation that is currently in force.

Having done so, an extension for a period of 12 months from 1 July 2018 has been agreed. The extension of the licence maintains the current position whilst the statutory Strategic Environmental Assessment and the Business Regulatory Impact Assessment on our preferred policy of not supporting unconventional oil and gas development are undertaken. I anticipate that these are likely to be concluded by the end of the current calendar year.

In the meantime, a moratorium on UOG planning consents is in place which means no local authority can grant planning permission and Ministers would defer any decision on any planning application that did come forward until the policymaking process is completed. The practical effect of the current moratorium and the policymaking process, which I announced last October and which is now well underway, to finalise our position is that no fracking or other UOG activity can take place in Scotland while the Scottish Government’s preferred policy position is subject to the aforementioned statutory procedures. To be clear, I anticipate that the statutory assessments should be concluded within the timescale described above, enabling a finalised policy position to be reached. In the event that the SEA and BRIA are supportive of the Government’s preferred position, then our finalised policy will be to not support UOG in Scotland.