Again the Scottish National Party is being naughty because it has ordered a de facto permanent moratorium on fracking in Scotland. According to the Tories this contradicts the Scottish government’s position on North Sea oil extraction.
Reform Scotland, the Edinburgh based think tank under the directorship of Scottish Conservative Geoff Mawdsley, has suggested that hydrofracking – if ever allowed in Scotland – would make up for the energy shortfall created by the decommissioning of the two nuclear plants scheduled for closure in the country. Stuart Paton, speaking on behalf of the think tank claimed that the position of the SNP was contradictory because of its reliance on the fossil fuel extraction in the North Sea, and the Scottish Conservative energy spokesperson, Alexander Burnett, has added that by taking this position on fracking the Scottish government is missing out on all the juicy benefits of this controversial industry.
When the SNP decide to give fracking the green light in Scotland, it will be a joy to watch all their supporters hailing this sensible move.—
Murdo Fraser (@murdo_fraser) May 24, 2016
On the face of it, it would appear that the Tories and Reform Scotland have a point. We are extracting oil from the North Sea. Perhaps we ought to offer them a chocolate watch for this sterling observation. Yet they have failed to mention that North Sea oil – worth an estimated £12 billion annually – benefits the London exchequer and is therefore not under the control of the Scottish government. Scotland receives a small share of the tax revenues; a figure not amounting to more than £21 million a year, and this is the sum the Westminster government love to wheel out every time it wants us to believe that our oil isn’t of any great value to us.
So, no, it would be wrong to say that the Edinburgh government is being inconsistent in its energy policy – banning fracking while exploiting off-shore fossil fuels – because our own government has no real control over our North Sea resources. This leaves the Tories with only one real point to make, that Scotland is missing out on the benefits of fracking. What benefits? Well, the fracking companies are well connected with the British Conservative Party and fracking in Scotland would certainly benefit their investment portfolios, but it would do precious little for the Scottish environment.
Instead the SNP government in Edinburgh has been putting its weight behind renewables; those terrible wind and sea turbines that Tories don’t want spoiling their views. If Scotland’s Conservatives had their way they would benefit their friends in big business and end all this environmentally friendly nonsense the National Party has been up to and frack the country to a crisp. The bad news for them is that the renewables policy of the Scottish government is working. Last month it was reported that wind energy alone provided all of the nation’s energy, and produced a wee surplus to boot. Admittedly, this was during the high winds, but it does show that we are within spitting distance of becoming 100% renewable in Scotland.
This means that we need neither oil nor fracking to boil our kettles anymore. All that these will be good for is for sale abroad into a global market that is fast – thanks to countries like Scotland, Norway, and Denmark – ditching fossil fuels. But that’s not the problem here, is it? The real problem is that Nicola Sturgeon’s government have blocked the Tories from making more money at the cost of Scotland’s health and environment. Fossil fuels have never really benefited Scotland. In fact, while the connected London élite have become richer, Scotland has become the only country in the world to get poorer as a result of striking oil. It’s time for the renewables.
The Renewable Energy Potential of Scotland