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Scotland’s Onshore Unconventional Oil and Gas Policy

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd October 2019.

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Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

I very much hope that the UK Government will change tack on the policy position that it has set out. The planning direction issued today requires planning authorities to notify, under planning legislation, the Scottish ministers of the receipt of any planning applications for unconventional oil and gas developments. Ministers can call in an application at any time for consideration, ensuring that decisions on onshore unconventional oil and gas developments can be made having regard to planning policy and procedure and the Scottish Government’s policy framework. That is not the approach that has been taken in England. Community views have been an important part of our decision-making process in Scotland; again, that has not been reflected in England.

We would be happy to share with UK ministers the evidence that we have gathered. In response to Mr Torrance’s point, I point out that we now know, as a result of research by the University of Nottingham that was published on 20 August 2019, that the UK’s underground shale gas reserves may deliver only a fraction of the gas that was previously thought to have been recoverable. That finding is in contrast to the British Geological Survey data. Rather than the 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas that was estimated by the BGS, the University of Nottingham’s estimate is 200 trillion cubic feet. That is obviously still a lot of gas, but it is not as significant an amount as had been thought. We would argue that UK ministers should reconsider their position.