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Publication - FOI / EIR Release

Research investigation and public consultation on fracking: EIR release

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.

FOI reference: FOI/17/02314
Date received: 1 October 2017
Date responded: 20 October 2017

Information requested

You asked for full details on all expert opinion (including reference papers, email correspondence, authors etc) called upon by the Scottish government to inform on the question of whether on-shore and off-shore fracking should be permitted in Scotland.

Response

As the information you have requested is 'environmental information' for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.

This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.

Most of the information you have requested is available from Scottish Government websites, and I attach links below.

The Scottish Government undertook one of the most far reaching investigations into unconventional oil and gas of any government including a four-month public consultation which concluded earlier this year.

The key steps in that process were:

In September 2013, the Independent Expert Scientific Panel on Unconventional Oil and Gas was established. In July 2014, the Independent Expert Scientific Panel report was published. The report can be viewed at: Expert Scientific Panel 28/7/14

The report from the Panel identified a number of evidential gaps that informed the scope of our subsequent research projects into unconventional oil and gas, which examined those specific issues in more depth.

On 09 December 2015, the Scottish Government commenced the tendering of those research projects. The projects covering health, economic and environmental matters, including climate change, transport and decommissioning issues and seismicity, ensured that the Scottish Government could consider further independent expert scientific advice, including from the British Geological Survey, Health Protection Scotland and the UK Committee on Climate change.

The Research reports were published in full on 08 November 2016, following a Ministerial Statement, and are available at:

Health Protection Scotland carried out a Health Impact Assessment on Unconventional Oil and Gas in Scotland: this was also published on 08 November 2016 and is available at - Health Impact Assessment

On 31 January 2017 the Scottish Government then launched a comprehensive public consultation on unconventional oil and gas, Talking "Fracking", which closed on 31 May. The results of that consultation were published on 03 October 2017 and are available at -Independent analysis of responses 3/11/17

Under regulation 6(1)(b) of the EIRs, we do not have to give you information which is already publicly available and easily accessible to you in another form or format. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested regarding the use of hydraulic fracturing techniques offshore as the UK offshore oil and gas industry is the responsibility of the UK Government. Therefore we are refusing your request under the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs. The reasons why that exception applies are explained in the Annex to this letter.

However, you may wish to contact the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy at foi.requests@beis.gov.uk as they may be able to help with this part of your request.

Reasons for not providing information

The Scottish Government does not have the information.

Under the terms of the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs (information not held), the Scottish Government is not required to provide information which it does not have. The Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested regarding offshore fracking because offshore oil and gas exploration is a reserved matter, and therefore the responsibility of the UK Government at Westminster.

This exception is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. While we recognise that there may be some public interest in information about offshore oil and gas exploration, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

Published:
3 Nov 2017
Research investigation and public consultation on fracking: EIR release