The petrochemical giant that runs Scotland’s biggest industrial complex has accused the Scottish Government of taking an “Alice in Wonderland” approach to fracking that is harming jobs and investment.
Nicola Sturgeon and Paul Wheelhouse, her Energy Minister, last year described the decision to extend indefinitely a moratorium on the controversial practice as a “ban”.
But the government’s lawyer told the Court of Session this week that ministers were still making up their minds, and talk of an “effective ban” was just the “language of a press statement”. James Mure QC said ministers had instead expressed their “preferred position”.
The Scottish Conservatives claimed the “damaging fiasco” called into question almost anything the government said and did.
Ineos, which imports fracked shale gas from the US and spent millions acquiring fracking licences in Scotland, claimed the apparently contradictory statements meant it had gone to court to “establish whether announcements in Holyrood can be taken at face value”. It issued a withering assessment of the government’s position at the end of a three-day judicial review.
Tom Pickering, operations director for Ineos Shale, which brought the case with another company, Reach CSG, in a bid to overturn the ban, said he was “astonished” by the developments in court.
“We were astonished to learn during proceedings that the Scottish Government claims that it has not issued a ban on fracking in Scotland, and indeed there may never be one.
“The position of the Scottish Government that has now been stated in court represents a staggering U-turn on the policy direction announced by the Energy Minister during Parliamentary debate in October last year, and by the First Minister when she said in Parliament,‘Scotland should welcome the fact that fracking in Scotland is banned’.”