Fracking, says Murdo Fraser, will be good for Scotland. It will be good for jobs and good for the economy. The problem we have with this, however, is that the research shows that the Scotland left behind won’t be an attractive home for the workers.

Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative convenor of the Economy, Energy, and Tourism Committee, was recently quoted by Rita Brown on the Energy Voice blog saying of hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) that Scotland would be “foolish to miss this opportunity.” His position, like every neoliberal position, is that exploiting the country’s subterranean shale gas resources would be good for the economy. “Many losing their jobs today in the offshore industry,” he argues, “have exactly the skills required to develop a new onshore industry, providing economic benefit and security of supply of gas.” On Twitter he sells himself as “Not really taking this seriously,” but when it comes to economic gain – a certain type of economic gain benefiting a certain type beneficiary – we can be sure that Fraser is taking this all very seriously indeed.

Claiming to be safeguarding their industrial secrets companies in the global fracking sector have consistently refused to allow independent research into the chemical contents of the heavy fluids they use in the process of resource extraction, yet samples collected by environmental activists have provided evidence of arsenic, cadmium, and other toxic substances including dangerous heavy metals. Other scientific studies from Canada and the United States have shown a link between fracking and seismic activity, with earthquakes ranging from point two to point four on the Richter scale releasing industrial chemicals and toxins into the water table.

Under the Scottish government’s present moratorium the fracking industry has been challenged to demonstrate that their practices will not pose a serious and significant threat to people and the environment. To date no attempt has been made by these companies, and this is largely thought to be due to their being no convincing evidence that fracking is not indeed dangerous. Presently the Scottish government is under pressure from anti-fracking groups to place a complete ban on the industry in Scotland, but such a ban is unlikely. Banning such practices, legally speaking, sits in the grey area between what has been devolved to the Scottish government and what is under the jurisdiction of Westminster. It is likely that a Scottish ban will be overturned by the Westminster government, effectively also removing the moratorium, and making way for fracking in Scotland.

We all want what is best for the economy, and here we can find common ground with people like Murdo Fraser, but just how much health and environmental damage can we allow in the name of economic growth? Certainly the evidence that we have, the only evidence we are allowed to have, is not good. Yes, investment in onshore fossil fuels may well create jobs and make a tidy profit for Murdo’s investor friends, but this will come at the cost of our nation’s wellbeing. A thoroughly fracked Scotland will be a poisonous wasteland, and at that stage we’d be as well heading for sunnier climes and leaving the place to Westminster.

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