Shale Gas

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 13 June 2013.

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Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

7. To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to exploit the potential of Scotland’s shale gas reserves. (S4O-02258)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Proposals for coal-bed methane or shale gas production in Scotland will be studied on their merits. Each proposal will be considered through the normal planning process and under the appropriate regulatory regimes, including the Scottish Environment Protection Agency’s guidance on the regulation of shale gas and coal-bed methane, which was published in December 2012. The Scottish Government will continue to support Scottish companies in the oil and gas supply chain to utilise their world-leading skills, knowledge and expertise in the development of opportunities that are presented across Europe and further afield.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

This week’s report from the United States Energy Information Administration states that the United Kingdom’s technically recoverable shale gas reserves are 26 trillion cubic feet—10 times our annual gas demand—of which a reasonable chunk is in Scotland. The Institute of Directors previously estimated that 35,000 jobs could be created from this new industry. Given that, in the US, shale gas has delivered a 50 per cent cut in wholesale energy costs, a reindustrialisation of the economy and a cut of millions of tonnes in carbon emissions, will the Scottish Government be enthusiastic about pursuing the new opportunity?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

As Mr Fraser knows well, the Scottish Government’s approach is designed to support and maximise sustainable investment in our economy. We will continue to take that approach.

As I said, individual applications for the development of shale gas reserves will be studied on their merits and considered through the due process that the existing arrangements in Scotland provide. The Government and its regulatory authorities will give due consideration to any approaches that are made.

It is essential to rely on substantive and quality information about the availability of resources and the manner and the practicalities of exploiting resources, which will be an implicit part of the assessment when each application’s merits are considered.

Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

Following an outcry in the Moodiesburn area of my constituency about shale gas exploitation, will the cabinet secretary guarantee that communities’ views will be fully considered and taken into account, with proper consultation processes, before decisions are taken on granting permissions for such controversial gas extraction schemes?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

In response to Mr Fraser, I emphasised clearly the importance of undertaking due process to ensure that applications are properly considered. That is because I recognise the issues and concerns that Elaine Smith raises on her constituents’ behalf.

Two types of scrutiny would apply to any application in Scotland—one relates to the local authority and one relates to SEPA. There is, of course, a separate licensing process that the Department of Energy and Climate Change in the United Kingdom Government presides over. In the SEPA and local authority processes, there are clear expectations about the level of consultation that is required to be undertaken with communities, to ensure that the concerns that Elaine Smith raises are properly and fully considered. I certainly want to be confident that all authorities would take that approach, which is consistent with their existing responsibilities and obligations.