INEOS takes Scottish Government to court over fracking
INEOS, the oil and petrochemical giant, has taken the Scottish Government to court over the fracking ‘ban’ - which the Scottish Government are insisting is a ‘preferred position’ rather than a final decision on fracking.
The case, which does not concern the actual merits of fracking, is centred around whether the Scottish Government actually banned the practice, or if that was mere ‘gloss’ and the ‘language of a press release.’ This is important - because INEOS are questioning whether a full ban on fracking is within the competence of the devolved administration.
But there is widespread opposition to the practice in Scotland, and a clear majority against it in Holyrood. Claudia Beamish MSP, Labour’s environmental spokesperson said that the lawsuit was:
“…a classic case of a big business ignoring the wishes of communities in favour of its own profit margins.”
But even with widespread opposition, questions remain over whether an actual ban was put in place. James Mure QC, acting for the government, denied that it was an and asked the court to throw the case out. Speaking in court, Mure said:
“The court ought to recognise that what ministers have done is announce a preferred position.”
“That they have not finally adopted it because they know in law it requires to undergo a strategic environmental assessment.”
But that in itself has drawn scorn from environmentalists. The SNP loudly proclaimed that a ban had been put in place, after being under heavy criticism for secret meetings with INEOS. The party’s website still states that “The Scottish Government has put in place a ban on fracking in Scotland - meaning fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland.”
Responding to the government’s mixed messages, Beamish said:
“This sums up perfectly the SNP government's attitude - spin before substance.
“Nicola Sturgeon and her ministers told MSPs – and more importantly campaigners and communities – that Scottish towns and villages were no longer at risk from fracking and the environmental damage it can cause because they had banned it.
"Now the government's lawyer is saying the opposite - saying it is the language of a press release.
“SNP ministers need to explain this - fast. It isn't sustainable for the SNP to be saying one thing on their leaflets, website and in press releases and something else entirely in a courtroom."
Photo of the Court of Session by Kim Traynor.