Joining Wales, Scotland bans fracking.

Posted by DanielS on Thursday, 05 October 2017 04:15.

Scotland’s ban on fracking poses something of a dilemma for nationalists. While it is indisputable that fracking is environmentally destructive, it is also the case that the destruction can be mitigated some in that the process can be turned off such that it is not an endless source of pollution; and it can be turned on when, for example, Russia threatens to withhold oil supply for not yielding to its political pressure as an oil supplier; which it aspires to do and that’s why Russian Active Measures has a certifiable presence in anti-fracking movements, including that of Scotland.

BBC, “Scottish government backs ban on fracking”, 3 Oct 2017:

The Scottish government has announced an “effective ban” on fracking.

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse told MSPs that the practice “cannot and will not take place in Scotland”.

He said an existing moratorium on the technique, which has been in place since 2015, would continue “indefinitely” after a consultation showed “overwhelming” opposition.

The government will seek Holyrood’s endorsement for the ban in a vote following the October recess.

But with only the Conservatives now opposed to a ban, the vote is likely to be a formality.

The move was welcomed by environmental groups but has been slammed by Ineos, operators of the huge Grangemouth petrochemical plant, which holds fracking exploration licences across 700 square miles of the country.

  Scotland and fracking: how did we get here?

The Scottish government has previously imposed a similar block on underground coal gasification (UCG) - a separate technique used to extract gas from coal seams deep underground - on environmental grounds.

It followed the introduction of a moratorium on both fracking and UCG in 2015, which saw a series of expert reports published on the potential health, environmental and economic impact of the controversial techniques, as well as a public consultation being carried out.

Mr Wheelhouse said the consultation came back with “overwhelming” opposition to fracking, with 99% of the 60,000 respondents supporting a ban. He said this showed that “there is no social licence for unconventional oil and gas to be taken forward at this time”.

The move comes almost exactly a year on from the UK government giving the go-ahead to horizontal fracking in Lancashire.

Shale gas is currently processed in Scotland at a site in Grangemouth, having been shipped in from abroad, but cannot be extracted from beneath Scottish soil under the current moratorium, which is enforced through planning regulations.

Mr Wheelhouse said local authorities would be instructed to continue this moratorium “indefinitely” - calling this “action sufficient to effectively ban the development of unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland”.

He said: “The decision I am announcing today means that fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland.”

Mr Wheelhouse’s announcement was welcomed by environmental groups, with Friends of the Earth Scotland and WWF Scotland both hailing a victory for campaigners.

WWF Scotland official Sam Gardner said it was “excellent news”, saying “the climate science is clear” that fossil fuels should be “left in the ground”.

Mary Church from Friends of the Earth Scotland said it was a “huge win for the anti-fracking movement” which would be “warmly welcomed across the country and around the world”.
‘Poor decision’

However Ineos said the move could see “large numbers of Scottish workers leaving the country to find work”.

Tom Pickering, operations director of Ineos Shale, said: “It is a sad day for those of us who believe in evidence-led decision making. The Scottish government has turned its back on a potential manufacturing and jobs renaissance and lessened Scottish academia’s place in the world by ignoring its findings.”

Ken Cronin of UK Onshore Oil and Gas also said it was a “poor decision”, which ignored “extensive independent research” and was “based on dogma not evidence or geopolitical reality”.

And the GMB Scotland trade union said the move was “mired in dishonesty” and “an abandonment of the national interest”, saying Scotland would now be dependent on gas shipped in from “the likes of Qatar and Russia”.

The Scottish Conservatives also said Scotland would miss out on a “much needed economic boost” and high-skilled jobs as a result of the decision.

Tory MSP Dean Lockhart said ministers had ignored scientific and economic evidence to take a “short-sighted and economically damaging decision which is nothing more than a bid to appease the green elements of the pro-independence movement”.

However Labour MSP Claudia Beamish said the move did not go far enough, arguing that ministers were merely extending the existing moratorium which “could be overturned at any point at the whim of a minister”.
‘Legally shaky’

Ms Beamish has a member’s bill tabled at Holyrood calling for a “full legal ban”, but Mr Wheelhouse said this would not be needed until his proposals.

The Scottish Greens said the announcement was “a step in the right direction”. However, they also wanted a more permanent ban, with MSP Mark Ruskell saying the moratorium was “legally shaky” and open to challenge.

This was also echoed by Friends of the Earth Scotland, with Ms Church saying ministers should “go further than relying on planning powers” and “instead commit to passing a law to ban the fracking industry for good”.

Scottish Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur welcomed the decision, saying that ministers had taken the “scenic route” but had ultimately decided “effectively to ban fracking”.

MSPs have previously voted to support a ban on fracking, but SNP members abstained from that vote.
What is fracking and why is it controversial?

- Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside.
- The extensive use of fracking in the US, where it has revolutionised the energy industry, has prompted environmental concerns.
- The first is that fracking uses huge amounts of water that must be transported to the fracking site, at significant environmental cost.
- The second is the worry that potentially carcinogenic chemicals used may escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site.
- But the industry suggests fracking of shale gas could contribute significantly to the UK’s future energy needs

  find out more…, “Demanding Outright Ban, Broad Alliance In Scotland Escalates Anti-Fracking Movement”, 2 Feb 2015:

Scotland’s government under the Scottish National Party recently announced a moratorium on fracking. The Radical Independence Campaign responded by repeating its call for an outright ban on all forms of unconventional fuel extraction. Using new powers devolved to Scotland since the independence referendum last fall, the moratorium is just one example of the political transformation currently underway here.

The SNP is predicted to win 42 of Scotland’s 59 seat at the 2015 U.K. general election – an eight-fold increase that would make it Britain’s third largest party. Pollsters give the party a 42% chance of joining a U.K. coalition government. Combined with the #GreenSurge, it’s safe to say that the era of British two-party rule appears to be ending.

The SNP is moving progressively in other ways as well, for instance in its call for a U.K.-wide end to austerity measures. If it joins a U.K. coalition government this spring, large-scale changes could be afoot regarding the party’s anti-nuclear stance and its staunch support for Scottish independence. But the SNP is still a broad church, with reports saying some of its top voices still favor fracking.

Nonetheless, the rise in SNP polling, and its moratorium decision, is inextricably linked to Scotland’s people-led movements. Organizations like the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), Women for Independence and Green Yes have continued to gain support post-referendum; the progressive movements are selling out conferences and continuing to hold Yes-stalls on street corners, public meetings and mass events.

A recent RIC anti-fracking conference welcomed the January moratorium cautiously, with a proviso that citizens must hold the Scottish National Party to its promise for a full and inclusive public discussion. A serious concern was raised that the moratorium didn’t include the relatively unknown practices of Underground Coal Gasification (UCG), Coal-bed Methane, and fracking under the sea. The conference called for a ban on all these industries and shared direct action strategies to combat them – including lessons learned by the “Lock the Gate” movement in Australia.

Currently there are plans for UCG to take place in Kincardine, southeast Scotland. The process involves converting coal into gas while it’s under the ground and inaccessible for mining. Oxygen, steam and other chemicals are pumped through boreholes under high pressure to make the coal seam explode, releasing methane and other gases that industry attempts to capture.

UCG, which remains less common than fracking, was conducted in the former USSR and more recently experimented in Queensland, Australia on three sites. Two of the tests have been shut down, including at Cougar Energy plant in Kingaroy, where there’s been extensive ecological contamination.

On the other hand, with the Coal-bed Methane process, water is pumped out of the coal seam to make fractures and cavities so gas can be released. The vast amount of water drawn out has high levels of toxins, from its close proximity to the coal face. Other risks include its high emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The anti-frack conference also highlighted New York State’s recent decision to ban hydraulic fracturing. The move in December by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo happened as a result of wide ranging public consultation in combination with a massive, sustained protest movement, said Professor Andrew Watterson. An internationally acclaimed expert on public health, Watterson concluded that “as a health professional, we need to push for a ban.”

Scotland’s governing party will soon announce a timeframe for the consultation. In the meantime, people are being encouraged to write submissions about the dangers of tapping unconventional fuels, to pressure the consultation to adopt the precautionary principle on the issue, and to visit local political representatives with petitions at all levels to ban fracking as part of a Broad Alliance of Scottish anti-fracking groups.

To counter the industry’s efforts to prevent a ban, Radical Independence Campaign and others are reaching out to ally movements that joined them in the referendum push, as they attempt to galvanize public opposition to fracking through street stalls, meetings, protests and educational events like anti-fracking film nights.

The conference also focused on the crucial role played by community campaigns in fighting unconventional fossil fuel extraction. The opening session heard about Falkirk, where Dart Energy plans to commence work on Coal-bed Methane. In opposition, local residents defined a Community Charter to assert what they feel should be protected as community assets. Features the group chose to preserve include a clean environment, future generations, food security and trustworthy elected representatives.

The charter has already been adopted by four communities, and is gaining momentum. Maria Montinaro from Concerned Citizens of Falkirk explained that the charter was easy to replicate: all a place needs to do is define its own assets, and it can adopt the charter.

Mary Church from Scottish Friends of the Earth told the audience that Scotland already has world-leading legislation to tackle climate change and is a global leader in renewables. “Opening up a new frontier of fossil fuels is completely irresponsible,” she said. And with a Green Surge sweeping the U.K. ahead of May elections, her opinion appears to reflect the majority.



Posted by Scotland's woods on Sun, 26 Nov 2017 21:46 | #

The Herald, “Scotland’s beautiful woodlands under threat - from the Forestry Commission”, 26 Nov 2017:


SCOTLAND’S beautiful wild woodlands are under threat from plans by the Forestry Commission - Scotland’s largest public landowner - to slash specialist staff, campaigners are warning.

The Sunday Herald can reveal that Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) is proposing to halve the number of key staff responsible for nature conservation and recreation, and to cut deer and wildlife ranger managers. This will threaten wildlife, walking and other woodland attractions.

The restructuring proposals have been rejected by forestry trade unions, and sparked widespread alarm amongst experts and environmental groups. They are worried that the public benefits of woodlands are being downgraded in favour of commercial conifer plantations.

The restructuring foreshadows a major forestry reorganisation being planned by Scottish ministers over the next few years. That has also run into opposition for favouring serried ranks of Sitka spruce trees over more environmentally friendly mixed woodlands.

FCS runs nine per cent of Scotland’s land – more that 650,000 hectares - on behalf of the Scottish Government. That includes more than 220 designated conservation areas treasured for their animals, plants and trees including eagles, beavers, red squirrels and ancient Scots pine.

In recent years FCS has won admiration for its “multi-purpose” forestry aimed at enhancing wildlife, amenity and other public benefits as well as growing conifers to sell. But there are now fears that this is changing.

Senior FCS officials are proposing a major restructuring programmed aimed at reducing the number of management districts in Scotland from 10 to five. According to insiders, this will cut the number of environmental and recreational team leaders from 20 to ten, as well as shedding deer and wildlife ranger posts.

One FCS source described environmental specialists as the organisation’s “moral conscience”. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said he was “very disappointed” about what was happening.

“This will erode the environmental functions of the commission. I don’t believe that this is what most people want. It’s Sitka first now.”

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Scotland criticised the lack of consultation on the restructuring. “We are very concerned that the multi-purpose forestry ethos is at risk, including a raft of conservation programmes,” said the society’s Duncan Orr-Ewing.

“It is critically important that the public are consulted about these apparently significant changes as to how our national forest estate is managed in the future to ensure it is in the public interest.”

The conservation charity, Woodland Trust Scotland, said it would be “disappointed” to see drastic staffing cuts. “FCS has come such a long way over the years promoting nature and modern mixed-use forestry,” said the trust’s public affairs manager, Charles Dundas. “It would be depressing to see a step backwards to the bad old days of short-term gains from narrow monocultures.”

The outdoor campaign group, Ramblers Scotland, pointed out that forestry tourism contributed over £180 million to the Scottish economy every year. “Clearly we’re concerned about any changes that could hit forest recreation,” said the group’s Helen Todd.

The Forest Policy Group think tank accused senior FCS officials of “filleting” its commercial arm, Forestry Enterprise Scotland (FES). “Removing social and environmental roles would clearly threaten the quality of what it does on environmental and social benefits,” said one of the group’s founding members, Willie McGhee. “These changes appear to be a response to senior management dogma, austerity and in part making FES fit for purpose to operate as new agency.”

The Scottish Government has been discussing plans for an overall reorganisation of forestry as full responsibility is devolved by Westminster. Ministers want to make FCS a dedicated division within government and turn FES into a new agency called Forestry and Land Scotland.

But the plans have sparked widespread concerns. “I think most stakeholders involved in land use and forestry in Scotland are alarmed about the loss of FCS’s openness,” said McGhee.

“They are surprised at the way in which senior civil servants have contrived to split up FCS, ignoring the results of their public consultation, which overwhelmingly rejected such a move.”

Labour’s rural spokesperson, Rhoda Grant MSP, warned that changes to the structure of FCS must not damage forestry’s crucial role in storing carbon and protecting wildlife. “We need more forestry in Scotland and it must be planted in a way that protects our environment as well as working with local communities,” she said.

“There are real fears that expertise will be lost with the changes being made. Scottish Labour will bring forward amendments to ensure that expertise is held within the new structures and that the new body works and engages with stakeholders.”

The PCS trade union, which represents many FCS staff, was also critical of the proposed reorganisation. “Splitting up the two parts of FCS are likely to make it more difficult for staff to deliver the multiple benefits that people enjoy, such as recreation, amenity and conservation,” said a PCS spokesperson.

The union couldn’t comment, however, on the proposed restructuring threatening environmental specialists because it was engaged in “a formal consultation process”. But the Sunday Herald understands that all the forestry unions are opposing the plans.

FCS argued that it had fully consulted staff on a “new, simpler organisational structure” to enable it to maintain its objectives. “We are planning to keep all the local offices and maintain our local presence on the ground,” said FES chief executive, Simon Hodge.

“We appreciate that change is often a challenge and we have ensured that our colleagues have been fully involved in the process. To that end, the project team taking forward the proposals has been made up of staff from a range of grades and locations,” he said.

“We have received a detailed response from the Forestry Commission trade unions which we will be giving full consideration to, and we will continue to work with them to address any issues and concerns they may have.”

The Scottish Government pointed out that the rural economy secretary, Fergus Ewing, had met with FCS senior officials and union representatives. “Completing the devolution of forestry will ensure our forests can deliver even more benefits to the people of Scotland,” said a spokesman.

“The legislation currently going through parliament includes a duty on Scottish ministers to promote sustainable forest management, which requires a balance between the environmental, social and economic aspects of forestry.”


Glen Affric, in the Highlands west of Loch Ness, is regarded as one of Scotland’s most beautiful forests. A protected National Nature Reserve, it contains ancient Caledonian pinewoods and a huge host of wildlife, including 28 mammals, 117 species of bird, 30 kinds of butterfly and dragonfly and 390 lichens, mosses and liverworts.

Rothiemurchus in the Cairngorms near Aviemore, is another attractive and precious fragment of ancient Caledonian pine forest including ospreys, capercaillie and wildcats. The Forestry Commission bought a large section of the forest from a private landowner in a controversial deal in 2014.

Glentress Forest, near Peebles in the Scottish Borders, is the most popular forest in the Tweed valley, with biking trails, walks and wildlife watching. It has 35 metre high Douglas firs more than a century old, tawny owls, buzzards, roe deer and badgers.

Queen Elizabeth Forest Park on the shore of Loch Lomond includes popular peaks such as Ben Lomond, Ben A’an, Ben Venue, Ben Ledi and the famous waters of Loch Katrine with its steamship. Near Aberfoyle, there’s a place for watching red squirrels, a waterfall and ropes for swinging through the trees.

Bennachie in Aberdeenshire has a famous Pictish hill fort, and a host of ancient stories to go with it. Amongst the rich diversity of wildlife are ants, newts, dragonflies, crossbills, long tailed tits, red squirrels and peregrines.

Kirroughtree Forest, near Newton Stewart in Dumfries and Galloway, is a tranquil mixed woodland with broad-leaved trees and conifers. There are spring flowers around Bruntis Loch, and a famous mountain bike trail.


THIS WEEK is National Tree Week - and the UK charity, the Tree Council, says upward of a quarter of a million people will take part in events, planting a staggering one million trees over the next few days.

The Tree Council is calling on people across the land to get their hands dirty by planting a sappling and showing their appreciation for the oak, ash, birch, pine and dozens of others woodland wonders that characterise country and city.

As well as giving a home for wildlife, trees provide food, fuel and building materials, the council says. They help prevent flooding, clean polluted air and conserve energy.

“Trees are good for business, too. It’s been proven that trees increase property values as well as footfall in shopping or business areas, all of which helps to boost the local economy,” it argues.

“The value and contribution of trees is immeasurable, going back to childhood memories such as climbing a favourite tree, admiring the gorgeous autumn colours they bring or simply, being glad they are around us.”

As well as tree planting, there will be walks and fairs across the country during the week.

“National Tree Week is a great time for individuals, communities and families across the UK to recognise and celebrate the value of trees,” said the council’s director-general, Pauline Buchanan Black.

“For too long, their huge economic and environmental value has been understated, and National Tree Week is the time to turn that around. Even if you don’t plant a tree, you can make sure that the trees you love are recorded on the online ‘Treezilla’ map.”

Buchanan Black urged everyone with a place to plant trees to start growing them. “We can better understand and promote the value of each and every one,” she said. “The value it adds to the earth, to the pocket and to the heart, will form a legacy that can be widely appreciated by everyone, even those not yet born.”

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