Neil Findlay: When is a ban not a ban?
In his regular fortnightly column, Neil Findlay wonders why the Scottish Government's 'ban' on fracking has melted away under legal scrutiny.
When is a ban not a ban?
That’s the question the SNP government have everyone scratching their heads over this week.
In 2017 the SNP slapped themselves on the back and announced to the world that they had banned fracking in Scotland. The first part of the UK to do so, it was presented as a testament to a Scotland that is a beacon of social progress and fairness. Many of us who have campaigned on this issue welcomed the announcement.
But wait a minute.
Earlier this month the government’s own QC, James Mure, confirmed that in fact fracking was NOT banned in Scotland.
He stated that the government had "not yet adopted a position" on whether to impose a ban.
Mure said "The concept of an effective ban is a gloss. It is the language of a press statement. What they have done is to announce a preferred position on the issue.”
Apparently the final decision will be come later this year.
Nicola Sturgeon has been asked on a number of occasions whether fracking is banned in Scotland since that announcement. Each time she has said it is.
In October 2017 she said:
“Let me be clear, because to some ears, it will sound as if some members are dancing on the head of a pin: fracking is being banned in Scotland - end of story.”
Humza Yousaf and other Ministers repeated the line.
In my own area of Lothian SNP MSPs evaded a firm position on fracking until they announced their ‘ban’ in 2017. I recall local MSP Fiona Hyslop doing verbal gymnastics about the issue on the BBC and Angela Constance dodging a local public meeting on the topic.
The news that fracking is not banned and that the person at the top of the Sunday Times Rich List, Mr Jim Ratcliffe of INEOS is at this very moment challenging the “ban that never was” in the courts will send a shiver down the back of communities who would be on the front line.
These will be the same communities that are always on the front line when developers seek to make money from exploiting our land and natural environment. Communities that previously have had to carry the burden of open cast coal extraction, landfill, waste processing, quarrying, incineration and the over concentration of wind farms.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that these tend to be poorer, working class communities.
In my last column I wrote about the strange case of SNP Ministers seemingly impervious to the sack, and this is another example of that trend.
When Nicola Sturgeon knowingly misleads the Scottish Parliament it doesn’t even muster up a red faced apology but when Ministers are caught lying at Westminster heads often roll.
In Scotland’s post-truth politics of 2018 however, that does not seem to matter.