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Energy giant 'astonished' at Scottish fracking stance

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An energy firm has added to the controversy surrounding fracking by claiming the Scottish government is taking an “Alice-in-Wonderland” approach to its policy.

Oil and gas giant Ineos took the Scottish Government to court last week, seeking a judicial review of its controversial fracking ban. But during the hearings it became apparent that a ban had never actually been imposed.

The Scottish Government still maintains it does not support fracking.

According to The Scotsman newspaper, Ineos wants to set up a fracking site in central Scotland. Currently the firm imports shale gas from the United States and processes it at a plant in east Stirlingshire.

Outside the Court of Sessions on Thursday (10 May), Ineos Shale operations director Tom Pickering said he was “astonished” to hear the ban was not in place.

“The position of the Scottish Government that has now been stated in court represents a staggering U-turn on the policy direction announced by the energy minister during parliamentary debate in October last year and by the first minister when she said in parliament ‘Scotland should welcome the fact that fracking in Scotland is banned’,” Pickering added.

“Sadly we seem to have reached the Alice-in-Wonderland situation where a business has to go to the Scottish courts to establish whether announcements in in Holyrood can be taken at face value.”

In 2015 the Scottish Government announced a temporary halt to fracking while officials decided whether it should be allowed in Scotland. Last year Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said fracking had been “banned in Scotland”.

But during last week’s hearing it became clear a ban was not legally in place. A judgement has yet to be issued.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government’s preferred position is that it does not support the development of unconventional oil and gas. As we have made clear, this position is subject to a strategic environmental assessment. It remains inappropriate to comment further during the judicial review process.”

In England, the practice has been controversial. The House of Commons housing, communities and local government committee has launched an inquiry into planning requirements for fracking projects, and in 2012 the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineers conducted a review of fracking which reported that while environmental impacts from fracking itself would be minimal, integrity of wells used to access shale oil is crucial to avoiding groundwater contamination.

Meanwhile a leading fracking industry body was recently forced to dispute claims that 6,100 shale gas wells are needed to halve UK gas imports, which campaigners had argued would be damaging to the environment.

Ineos has been contacted for comment.

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