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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 could have predicted that that one would come up, and, indeed, it did. This is obviously a process. As I said in my statement, I appreciate that communities and industries will have been frustrated by aspects of the process and the length of time that it has taken to get to where we are. However, those aspects are governed by statute: there is a statutory process and it takes time.

Since I gave my statement in October 2017, we have taken appropriate time to do what Parliament asked us to do in the motion that we passed on 24 October 2017: that is, to undertake a strategic environmental assessment and a business regulatory impact assessment on the preferred policy position. We have now finalised that position.

Today’s announcement marks the conclusion of the process that we have followed in the development of our policy. That process has ensured that we have reached a policy decision that is fit for purpose, and that enables us to set a framework for the exercise of planning functions, and for our functions in respect of onshore oil and gas licensing, which we arrived at after the statement that I gave in October 2017. Under the policy, we will not issue a licensing round for new underground unconventional oil and gas production.

In relation to the point about language that Dean Lockhart mentioned, he will be aware of the court action that he referenced in his question, and I emphasise that language is extremely important. We are trying to respect the determination of Lord Pentland in the inner house of the Court Session, and not to put at risk the position that we have taken very great care to reach. That is what I have to say about language. We were very particular about what we put in today’s statement, which, I appreciate, may not have been as exciting as some statements can be—on occasion. As I have said previously, although it may be a case of campaigning in poetry and governing in prose, we had to put the language down in a particular way to give clarity on the policy position so that all stakeholders—whether they are for or against unconventional oil and gas—know exactly where we stand. I am confident that we have done that today.