Open Letter to the Scottish Government regarding unconventional gas extraction industry.

We, an alliance of groups from Scottish communities directly or indirectly at risk from the unconventional gas extraction industry, have come together to call on the Scottish Government to follow the example of other countries by implementing a moratorium on all forms of unconventional gas development in Scotland. The Scottish Government has the power to insist on a moratorium and can demonstrate its commitment by taking the responsible decision on the Falkirk public inquiry, to refuse permission to Dart Energy for commercial coalbed methane extraction.

We are supported in our call by increasing numbers of groups concerned about unconventional gas developments, by trades unions representing workers at risk of the health and safety impacts of the industry, and by organisations, scientists and public health researchers opposed to the negative environmental, health and economic impacts of unconventional gas extraction. 
A responsible decision is one truly in line with the precautionary, community-led approach to unconventional gas assessment set out in the new Scottish Planning Policy, and which sends a clear message to Westminster that its gung-ho, undemocratic approach on this issue is unacceptable in Scotland. 

The UK government has just closed the licensing round for exclusive rights to exploit Scotland's onshore oil and gas resources. 20,000 square km of our heartland are on offer in what is home to 70% of the Scottish population and much of our most productive farmland and economic activity.   

Every week, evidence is mounting that risks to public health, workers and the environment associated with this necessarily intensive industry are inherent and impossible to regulate away. Our experiences to date strongly indicate SEPA and the HSE are overstretched, under-resourced, and therefore ill-equipped to regulate exploratory drilling properly, let alone larger developments. The population density of the central belt, and its highly faulted and mined geological context, further exacerbate potential impacts. The idea that financial incentives can remedy genuine public and environmental health concerns is morally insupportable.  

Every week more evidence calls into doubt the economic promises of the unconventional gas industry. Industry and banking whistle-blowers in the USA indicate that the onshore gas-drilling boom of recent years is little more than a financial bubble – less about energy production than quick-win gains for a few multinationals before the bubble bursts. It is diverting investment away from renewables, sending profits overseas. The industry’s promises regarding employment, cheap gas, energy security and climate impacts, are disingenuous and ill-founded. The collateral risks far outweigh any local economic benefit, and threaten over-arching local and national policy aspirations.

Every week it becomes clearer the UK Government will steam-roller ahead in its support of the unconventional gas industry, irrespective of counter-evidence and the democratically-expressed opinion of its electorate. In the month since the referendum, Westminster has sought to overrule Scots’ rights to be notified about and to object to shale gas drilling under our homes, has rushed through an amendment allowing operators to use any substance and leave it in their wake, has held an auction of Scotland’s heartland for fracking, and in July underwrote INEOS’s plans to make Grangemouth the ‘European hub of fracking’ with £230m of tax-payers money. 
Thus we welcome Holyrood’s defence of Scottish citizens where it has made a vocal opposition to the Westminster approach and by taking direct responsibility for deciding the Dart public inquiry. We welcome the recognition enshrined in the new Scottish Planning Policy that a proper risk assessment of unconventional gas applications must involve the meaningful participation of Scottish communities who bear the burden of risk, and this must involve the operators’ full disclosure of all necessary information. But this does not go far enough.

Unconventional gas isn’t some far off prospect. Our communities, and others across Scotland, are facing the very real prospect of extraction on their doorstep now or in the immediate future.  There is a genuine risk that hundreds of wells will be drilled across Scotland only to demonstrate there is no economically viable resource, profiting the few at the expense of the public, environment, and economic health of the many, and derail our world-leading programme for long-term sustainable development.

We therefore call on the Scottish Government to take the responsible decision on the Dart application. Until such time as full and open public health impact and lifecycle environmental impact assessments have been conducted with effective consultation and conclusions satisfactory to all concerned parties, we call on the Scottish Government to implement a moratorium on all unconventional gas activity.

Yours sincerely
Canonbie and District Residents Association
Clacks Against Unconventional Gas
Concerned Communities of Falkirk
Don't Frack The Briggs (Bishopsbriggs)
Dunbar Anti Fracking Team
East Lothian Against Fracking, Pencaitland
Halt Unconventional Gas Extraction, Cumbernauld
Highlands and Islands Against Fracking
Iona Community Mull and Iona Family Group
No Fracking North Berwick
Our Forth (Portobello)
Supported by:
Eco Drama
Friends of the Earth Falkirk
Friends of the Earth Scotland
Friends of the Earth Stirling
A Greener Melrose
Hands Off Our Scotland
Professor Andrew Watterson, Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, Stirling University
Professor Rory O’Neill, Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, Stirling University
Markinch Environmental Action Group
Scottish Hazards Campaign
Stirling University
Transition Town Linlithgow
Transition Black Isle
Transition Stirling

Unison Scotland


Sandra Burt's report on the Peoples Climate March

People’s Climate March, Edinburgh
Sunday 21st September 2014

I arranged to take part in the People’s Climate March with some friends I’d made whilst volunteering as a Zero Waste Scotland Recycling Ambassador at the Commonwealth Games earlier in the year.  It’s good to unexpectedly find like-minded people and share information about events, and I found out about this march through these new friends.  It was ironic that the weather was glorious – a warm and sunny day in late September.  The sunshine helped bring out the crowds but underlined the reason we were there.  It’s difficult to estimate numbers but there were possibly around 5000 people in Edinburgh at the march.

The crowds assembled at Mound and we met this man who told us about the shofar - a ram’s horn blown at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year festival at the end of September which precedes Yom Kippur.  The shofar is also sounded as a call to action and so was fitting to be heard at the People’s Climate March. 

The homemade banners were impressive and an area had been set aside at the rallying point to create personal climate change messages.  Posters from events at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival had been recycled into banners and flags.  I liked the fact that this activity had been incorporated into the festivity of the day.

There were a few speakers before we set off, and we were told that because so many more people than expected had turned up, the police had been asked to help steward the march.  Some lanes on the roads also had to be closed.  We walked along Princes Street, over North Bridge, up the High Street and back down to the Mound.

I bumped into some friends on North Bridge - John Fitzgerald and Mary Church from Friends of the Earth Scotland.

Back at the Mound there were more speakers and some community singing to finish off the rally.