Scottish parliament votes narrowly in favour of ban on fracking

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The Scottish parliament has voted narrowly in favour of a ban on fracking, after Scottish National party MSPs abstained following a debate that gave a strong indication of the changed nature of the new Holyrood chamber.

Scottish Labour had tabled an amendment in support of a full ban as part of an environment debate headed by the new cabinet secretary, Roseanna Cunningham.

The SNP announced a moratorium on fracking in Scotland last January, but has stopped short of an outright ban to allow for further consultation and a public health impact assessment.

After SNP members abstained, the motion was passed on Wednesday by 32 votes to 29, with Scottish Greens and Liberal Democrats joining Labour to defeat the Conservatives.

Scottish Labour’s environment spokesperson, Claudia Beamish, who tabled the amendment, immediately called on the SNP government to clarify its position after the vote, which does not create binding policy, but represents a significant defeat for the SNP so soon into this new parliamentary term.

Beamish said: “The SNP government must now clarify whether or not they will respect the will of parliament and introduce an outright ban on fracking. It would be outrageous for this important vote to be ignored.

“There is no doubt about the science – to meet our climate change goals and protect our environment we need to develop low carbon sources of energy, not another fossil fuel. Labour’s position is clear: no ifs, no buts, no fracking.”

The SNP energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, insisted the government remained “deeply sceptical” about fracking and that there would be no fracking in Scotland unless there was clear evidence that it would cause no harm. He said a full public consultation was being carried out.

A number of Scottish Conservatives spoke in favour of fracking, including the newly elected Maurice Golden, who argued that a “leftwing cabal” of Labour, Greens and Lib Dems was ignoring scientific evidence and the potential of the process to boost jobs and the economy.

Andy Wightman, Land Reform spokesperson for the Scottish Greens and MSP for Lothian, also put forward a successful amendment calling for calling for “radical and ongoing reform to democratise land”.

Commenting after the vote, Wightman said: “With the notable exception of the Tories, there is clearly an appetite for radical land reform in this session of parliament and tonight’s vote puts the pressure on government to deliver on that expectation.

“Activists within the SNP agitating for bolder action on land reform should question their party’s decision in the chamber today.”

Powered by article was written by Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent, for The Guardian on Wednesday 1st June 2016 18.23 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010