Paul Wheelhouse MSP
Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy
The future of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland has proven both complex and controversial. It is also an issue that has stimulated intense debate, motivated by deeply held and sincere views on all sides. Now we want to understand your views.
The Scottish Government's position is to take a cautious, evidence-led approach while we gather and consider evidence. In January 2015, the Scottish Government put in place a moratorium on unconventional oil and gas development in Scotland, which prevents hydraulic fracturing for shale oil and gas, and coal bed methane extraction taking place while the Scottish Government has investigated evidence on potential impacts. We also ensured that no further unconventional oil and gas licences were issued by the UK Government for sites in Scotland.
Most of Scotland's unconventional oil and gas deposits occur in and around former coalfields and oil shale fields in Scotland's central belt, which contains some of the most densely populated areas of the country, as well as in the area around Canonbie, Dumfriesshire.
As an advanced economy, Scotland needs to ensure it has access to safe, clean, reliable and affordable energy to underpin our economic competiveness and to contribute to the wider wellbeing of our society. As a responsible, progressive nation, Scotland must also continue to demonstrate its strong leadership on climate change; an issue in which everyone across Scotland has an interest and on which there is a strong consensus across civic Scotland and the political spectrum. This is why it is vitally important that we not only consult local communities in the central belt and Dumfriesshire, but that we give communities, business and interest groups from across Scotland an opportunity to put their views across, given the potential for the generation of any new source of emissions to impact upon Scotland's transition to a low carbon economic model.
To establish a comprehensive evidence base on which to consider the future of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland, in 2013 the Scottish Government asked an Independent Expert Scientific Panel to examine unconventional oil and gas. When the Panel reported in July 2014, they identified a number of key gaps in the evidence base and so, to address these gaps, we commissioned a suite of expert reports to examine specific issues in more detail, and these key studies were published in November 2016.
Throughout this process we have sought to present impartial, independent information on unconventional oil and gas in order to encourage informed dialogue and debate.
Your view is important and so this consultation invites your participation in determining the future of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland. The consultation does not set out or advocate a preferred Scottish Government position or policy. Instead, we want to create space for dialogue and allow different perspectives to come forward.
The Scottish Government has a very important decision to make in determining the future of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland. Once the consultation closes and the responses have been independently analysed, we will then consider the full range of evidence, and make our recommendation. In doing so, we will give careful consideration to the extraction methods for both shale oil and gas, and coal bed methane.
We will then ask the Scottish Parliament to vote on our recommendation, and we will come to a final decision by the end of 2017 on whether or not unconventional oil and gas has a role in Scotland's energy mix.