A partial victory for communities

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse has confirmed that while his Government will adopt a policy of no support for unconventional gas extraction (fracking), there will be no legal ban.

 This final “policy position”, is announced after 6 long years of government deliberation and a mass public consultation, when 60,000 people responded with a clear message that they want this environmentally damaging practice banned.

It is a major win for the local campaigns that form the Broad Alliance and for Community Councils across the Central Belt. Communities woke up to fracking before politicians. Dart Energy was ready to start coal bed methane capture at Airth and it was only the determined campaign of Falkirk Against Unconventional Gas that stopped them. Next we scuppered the insane plan to set fire to coal seams under the Firth of Forth – so-called Coal Bed Gasification. When thousands joined hands across the Forth Bridge, the government got the message and banned it. Most politicians knew nothing about UOG – we had to educate ourselves and them.

The Broad Alliance fought for a legal ban on UOG, but what we have is a policy statement that the government does not support it, and a presumption that any planning application from INEOS will be refused. This presumption will be in the Planning Framework, which does not come into force until 2021.

This position is potentially open to legal challenge for two reasons:

  • Last year the Court of Session ruled that a policy position does not amount to a ban on fracking, and is no more than a “PR statement”. 

  • The government confirmed there will be no new licences, but what about the two that INEOS already owns, and which the government renewed only this year.

 Broad Alliance chair Donald Campbell said it is “good news that fracking is blocked – it is a pity it isn’t banned so we could say ‘job done’”.

“The Broad Alliance members could not have done more – we have spent years campaigning in our communities, researching fracking, writing papers, drawing Ministers’ attention to worrying new research coming from the United States, and acting positively as the community stakeholder in the consultation. We highlighted the potential damage to air, water health and the massive contribution of methane leaks to the climate crisis.

 “On the positive side, there is a similar policy presumption against new nuclear developments in Scotland, and so far there has been no attempt to build new power stations on existing nuclear sites, as has happened in England where there is government support. We hope the same will happen with fracking but in all honesty, when it comes to corporations like INEOS, we don’t think hope is enough.”

Tell the Scottish Government: "Gie's a legal ban"

Members of the Broad Alliance and environmental campaigners will be lobbying the SNP’s Spring Conference on Saturday April 27 and Sunday April 28 from 9am to 11am at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre in Morrison Street. More details here - please come along.

We are there to support an emergency resolution put to the conference by SNP Members Against Unconventional Gas (SMAUG). It asks the Scottish government to change its position on unconventional gas, which they have now made clear is to continue the current moratorium rather than to introduce legislation to ban onshore fossil fuel developments.

Many people ask why we continue to seek a legal ban; for some reason they believe that a moratorium is less open to legal challenge from INEOS. In our view this is not correct, and in fact the opposite is the case. Friends of the Earth Scotland has commissioned legal advice which argues that a moratorium is more open to challenge because it is only an administrative measure; a law has greater status.

The legal opinion explains 

“as a matter of devolved politics, if there is a political consensus within the devolved institutions that there should be no unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland, then the surer way successfully to defeat any further legal challenges which might be brought by oil concerns aggrieved at this position, would be for a ban expressly to be enshrined in primary legislation from the Scottish Parliament, rather than simply left to the administrative or planning discretion of the Scottish Ministers.

“This is because the courts regard measures involving political, social and economic issues as falling centrally within the legislature’s discretionary area of judgment and would respect its decision as to what was in the public interest unless it were shown to be manifestly unreasonable. That is a higher test than the courts will set for a successful challenge to purely administrative action…”

The Scottish government’s “preferred position” is confused and confusing. It has been updated a number of times and is hedged around with phrases such as “a cautious, evidence-led approach”. This opens the door to future “evidence wars”, with INEOS proposing that the industry’s evidence should rule as it has the backing of the global oil and gas industry, the industry body UK Oil and Gas (UKPG) and of course the UK government. 

The Broad Alliance has been told that there is now to be another consultation on the definition of the “preferred position”, which may be the result of concerns of government lawyers. The Broad Alliance will respond to the consultation in good faith, of course, but will continue to demand a legal ban.

The “preferred position” will give rise to a clause in the National Planning Framework (NPF) with a presumption against giving planning permission for any onshore oil or gas venture. We are told that this will be enough to prevent fracking. But the National Planning Framework is not a statute, and can be changed by Ministers. The present government say they will not change it – but who knows what the future holds? We believe that Planning Bill currently going through the Scottish Parliament could be amended so that the NPF cannot be altered without the change being brought back to Parliament for decision.

Another issue that the industry’s could cite in its favour is that last year the Scottish government chose to use its newly-acquired powers over onshore licensing to renew the exploration and development licence for PEDL 162. And because they did that, they will have to renew the other PEDL 133 when it expires in June, because it would not be reasonable to renew one and not the other. How could they argue in court that they renewed the licences, but that they are not now going to allow the owners of the licences to exercise their rights to explore for gas.

If you would like to read the legal opinion in full you can find it here.

Plastics are fuel for fracking

Statement on Scottish government's plans to phase out single use plastics

The Broad Alliance (Scottish communities against unconventional gas extraction - fracking) welcomes the push from the Scottish and UK governments to cut back on throw-away single-use plastic.

The boom in plastics is the only thing sustaining the fracking industry worldwide. Demand for fossil fuels for power is decreasing thanks to renewables, so fossil fuel companies are switching.

Since 2010, $180bn has been invested in the US to build new gas “crackers” like those at Grangemouth. The aim is to produce ethane, a base for plastic manufacture, and to use it to make 40% more plastics this decade.

Legal challenge

One of the world’s biggest plastics makers, INEOS is asking leave to seek judicial review of the Scottish government’s decision to rule out fracking. CEO Tom Pickering claims that natural gas “keeps the power on and homes warm in Scotland and will contribute to energy security”.

But gas fracked by INEOS in the UK will not be mainly for heating and cooking. Mr Pickering himself confirmed at many public meetings across Scotland that the major use would be for their plastics business, like the gas they are importing from the US.

Announcing the legal action, INEOS states in their news release: “An expert report commissioned by the Scottish Government had concluded that shale gas could be produced safely”. But this is not quite accurate. INEOS are quoting from the Independent Expert Scientific Panel – Report on Unconventional Oil And Gas published in July 2014. What they have said was just a part of a sentence in the Executive Summary, not a conclusion. The conclusions of that report were quite different:

  1. Public concerns around unconventional gas development include concerns about technical risks such as water contamination, public health and seismicity, but also wider issues such as social impacts on communities, effect on climate targets and trust in operators, regulators and policymakers;
  2. In addition to the environmental impacts documented in Chapter 6, the process of exploring for shale gas and CBM and, if it happens, eventual scaling up to full production, will have social impacts on a local community;
  3. Social impacts documented from shale gas and CBM developments in the US and Australia have included job creation, local business investment and investment in infrastructure as well as population growth affecting local housing markets and local demographics; house prices; health effects on animals and people; increased truck traffic; and the impacts of development and protesters on stigmatising local communities
  4. Many of these social (and environmental) impacts can be mitigated if they are carefully considered at the planning application stage. Early consultation with communities is vital to identify potential impacts on a community, to scope out potential benefits and to develop plans to mitigate the impacts and enhance the benefits.

We would add that this preliminary and quite cursory report is not the evidentiary basis for the Scottish government’s decision. In 2015 there was a massive programme of evidence-gathering, in areas such as economy, health, transport and climate change. Eight reports were published in November 2016 and these are the evidentiary basis for the Scottish government’s decision.

Community Consultation

An “early community consultation” (as recommended in the 2014 report) did take place and 60,000 individuals and groups responded, the majority from areas that could be affected. 99% opposed fracking. Every one of the Community Councils in affected areas, who looked at the pros and cons at special neutrally facilitated consultation meetings, said “No”. Most local authorities in the affected areas are also against.

All the industry’s claims of safe extraction, community benefit money and jobs did not convince people at all. They rejected the reindustrialisation of the Central Belt.

INEOS said at public meetings that they would respect the decision of the Scottish government. We suspect that was because they thought they and their backers would get their way. Now that has failed, they are singing a different tune.

If there’s one thing we learned throughout this whole process, it is that it has to be communities, and their local representatives, who make these decisions – not corporations whose sole focus is on their bottom line.

Time to switch

There is now a global movement to end throw-away plastic pollution. It is great that the Scottish and UK governments want to be part of it. The global plastics industry and their fracking partners are betting on the wrong horse – they’d do better to switch to biodegradables and renewables, and soon. Friends of the Earth Scotland is leading the way with their work on a just transition from fossil fuels - which could deliver more, not fewer, jobs.

We urge everyone who is against fracking to join the fight against throwaway plastic, and also to switch to a frack-free energy supplier.


A global alliance against UOGE is taking shape

Global Gas Lock-in - Uniting the North-South Resistance at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Brüssels – Report back from Broad Alliance Secretary Dan McMahon

Having been involved in The Broad Alliance and local anti-fracking organising in East Dunbartonshire for a few years now, attending this conference in late September helped me to look at my campaigning from a more international perspective.

While the anti-fracking movement in Scotland and the UK has always looked to the USA and Australia in particular to tell us what the wide scale takeover by oil and gas technologies would actually look like and the impacts on our health and quality of life, we have given little attention to the Global South.

This conferenceredressed the imbalance, with Tunisian, Mexican, South African, Russian and Nigerian delegates speaking about the situation within their countries, looking at the politics of gas, lobbying, oil spills, how different nations are linked by pipeline projects and mobilising very diverse communities against gas development. 

While I met many fascinating people over the course of the three days of the conference and tasted some fantastic vegan cakes and coffee in Brussels, I wanted to share some of the key things I learned that we can take forward. 

1. Natural Gas is Fossil Gas

This may seem like semantics, but it is important. So much of the power of the gas industry to lobby the European Union, national governments and the public to, comes from their ability to claim the importance of gas to the future economy. They promote the fallacy that 'natural gas’ is going to be required – and available - for years to come. They claim it as a ‘partner for renewables’. Folksy ads show millennial couples ‘living NEARLY off the grid’ with the help of gas products. This greenwashing of gas is the main PR strategy of Shell, Exxon Mobil, Statoil and INEOS. It allows fracking to take hold, new pipelines to criss-cross the United States and Europe and even highly carbon intensive liquified natural gas to be volleyed between continents.

As anti-fracking activists we know this to be deeply dishonest, with the carbon footprint of natural gas from fracking comparable to that of burning coal, plus the devastation of local communities when this industry takes hold. Activists across the world are deciding to recast the way we speak about gas by reminding people of its similarity to oil and coal in extraction and emissions, and finite supply, by referring to 'fossil gas'. 

2. Linking up supply chains

As many of us know, Scotland’s ‘ban' on fracking through the planning framework doesn’t mean that we have chased the fracking industry beyond the Solway Firth. INEOS has simply shifted focus from Scotland being a producer to being a link further down the supply chain, through the notorious ‘dragon ship’ imports. INEOS have a 15-year contract with Range Resources in Pennsylvania for fracked gas. While the ethylene being imported to Grangemouth is not destined for home heating systems or gas fired power plants, and therefore not immediately destined for the atmosphere, its environmental impacts are nevertheless severe. There are numerous sites around the supply chain (and post-supply chain life as near eternal plastic pollution) where environmental impacts are being felt. In Middleton, Pennsylvania, community members are so concerned about the pipelines of Appalachian gas and Highly Volatile Liquids which travel through their town on the journey to the Coastal Marcus Hook export Terminal that they are now informing us of their plight. The hard fact is that the dangers their community face from these pipeline projects are exacerbated by the demands of Europe-based client companies who require Highly Volatile Liquids in a non-odour treated state in order to use these as the building blocks of plastic.

While companies do have mechanisms to detect a drop in pressure in their pipeline, they cannot detect a drop below 1% without this odour treatment and clearly this makes a leak much more difficult for surrounding communities to pick up on. These pipelines, known as the Mariner East Pipeline, a 100 year old ‘repurposed’ gas pipeline which has unsafely had its purpose and direction of flow reversed, are soon to be joined by the Mariner East 2 Pipeline, all traversing densely populated East Coast communities. Middleton and Delaware County were given no chance to submit planning objections to this new Pipeline, traversing over 10 miles of their community before the Pennsylvanian Department of Energy granted permission to this project. 

This is why we formed a sub-group at the conference, in order to work more closely together and this will continue. Melissa Hayes, the representative from the Middleton Coalition, a community group based in Middleton, Pennsylvania, brought her research and experience of the various companies involved in these pipelines in her area and the importance of exports and European clients (notably Scotland and Norway) to the development strategy of this industry in the US.

Melissa also discussed how difficult it is to mobilise against this industry in her part of the world, where many people are employed by Pipeline companies, climate and environmental issues are thoroughly less urgent than a need for ‘jobs’ and politicians of both major parties (Democratic Party and Republican Party) have deep, even familial and marital ties to Sunoco Logistics, the main pipeline company involved in these operations who have 10x the number of leaks and spills seen by their competitors. Sunoco is a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, the outfit behind the Dakota Access Pipeline and has ties right up to the White House.

While there was a mammoth push in the East Coast to get organised at the time of the New York State fracking moratorium that then became a ban, community members from Middleton feel that their plight is not getting the attention that they require to make a change. There are now hundreds of pipelines being proposed across the US, which is looking to export a glut of gas to Asia and Europe. Many of them are being granted planning permission at record speed under Eminent Domain Laws originally intended to give special planning status to projects of 'common good'. This is a situation where the lobbying of the oil and gas industry is setting dangerous precedents and there is a real risk of environmental and health disasters as challenges against industry are taken on by activists and NGO groups like Food and Water Watch, whose resources are spread very thin in the face of such threats.  In Scotland, we have a duty to speak out about these things, which wouldn’t be possible if companies like INEOS weren’t able to convince us and our politicians that operations in the United States were both legitimate or none of our business. 

Plans for 2018. This is where it gets really exciting! Broad Alliance members, along with Food and Water Watch Europe (represented by Andy Gheorghiu), The Rosa Luxembourg Foundation, The Middleton Coalition and groups facing INEOS licenses in England (big shout out to Friends of the Earth England and Wales on this one) are hoping to host a conference in the new year, focused on taking the fight to INEOS and linking our causes.

More than these concrete plans, the conference was a chance to be grateful, humbled and energised at various times. It was amazing to meet up with allies in the NGO sector, collectives and community groups, knowing how many dimensions there are and the geographical spread of the struggle against gas. I have come away with a renewed knowledge of the depth and breadth of the struggle and how the context for this risky dash for gas is widespread economic insecurity, corporate money in politics and loneliness which has left people so vulnerable, as well as the success of anti-coal and anti-fracking activism in European countries.

Unfortunately, this struggle doesn’t come to a clean cut, celebratory end point, and often very quickly gives way to a new proposal for a Liquified Natural Gas Import terminal or a transnational pipeline project (such as the Southern Gas Corridor which brings gas from Azerbaijan all the way to Italy, or the Midcat pipeline linking Algerian gas to Spain and France). As an activist I am working on improving my social media skills, to help amplify the impact of actions at home and abroad.

 The difficult truth to all of this is that we are in for a longer battle against this fossil fuel frenzy than we might have hoped. In light of that brutal realisation, conferences like this are all the more important in helping us reflect, share skills and tactics in this struggle. That sense of solidarity is a powerful reboot for a weary anti-fracker like me. 

I hope that everyone gets a chance to rest and catch up with friends and family up over the winter holidays. 

Dan McMahon

Kirkintilloch Against Fracking member and Secretary of the Broad Alliance

If you want to find out more about the work the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation is doing in fighting gas developments please take a look at their website. Here is a link to their conference report from last year’s fossil fuel fighting conference called ‘Fossil Fuel Lock-in: Why gas is a False Solution’- http://www.rosalux.eu/topics/social-ecological-transformation/fossil-fuel-lock-in-why-gas-is-a-false-solution/


We need a strong climate bill - and no fracking

The Scottish Government are updating the landmark Climate Change Bill (2007), which is so important for our trajectory and accountability on the road to a sustainable, low carbon future and the Broad Alliance agreed to make a submission.

While this is broadly a positive and progressive proposal. we are not alone in voicing concern that this simply doesn’t go far enough. The focal point of the consultation is an ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050. This is a worthy revision on the previous target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050, although it does raise the question of why we are not aiming to reduce emissions by 100%, when we know that the technology to attain such a transition is already in existence (and increasingly affordable). Our overall approach has been informed by taking the very positive elements already in the consultation document and either amplifying them or bringing them to the foreground of climate policy-making and leadership in Scotland. 

There are so many ways to respond to this consultation. While we would suggest having a read at the Consultation Document and answering the questions through the Consultation Portal website, not everyone has the time to do that in the coming weeks and there are some easy, accessible options too;

-Support Friends of the Earth e-action on this Bill- https://act.foe.scot/climate-action

-Support Stop Climate Chaos e-action on consultation - https://act.foe.scot/sccs-climate

-Copy and Paste our template answer (contained below), adding your name, editing/adding any additional information and sending it to Scottish Government at- CCBill@gov.scot

-The full Scottish Government consultation is available through - https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/energy-and-climate-change-directorate/climate-change-bill/

Our Answer :

Broad Alliance of Scottish Communities united against Unconventional Oil and Gas Exploration  

Submission to Scottish Government Climate Bill Consultation 2017


Dear Scottish Government, 

We welcome the chance to submit to this consultation and as community members, most of us living in areas which would be directly affected by fracking, to have some input into this new Climate Change Act. In order to submit to this consultation, we first read the consultation document and picked out some key themes from what the Scottish Government aims to do with this policy which we broadly support, although believe could go further. We have defined these headings as guiding principles, and these include; ‘Climate Leadership’, ‘Progressivism’ focusing on the need to keep moving towards a zero-emissions economy, ‘Accountability and Transparency’ which focuses on climate change as an issue for every level of democratic governance and the need for parsimony and communication about policy in this area, as well as a 'Hierarchy of concerns’ in the criteria for policy, which places community needs and a ‘fair and safe’ emissions budget as supreme and deserving of more concern than the ‘competitiveness of certain sectors of the economy’. 

While our overall approach to this submission has about adjusting the saturation and brightness of the consultation document, in order to make the very positive aspects of it clearer and to really bring them into the foreground, we also have a few additions to the Bill. We would like to see a ban on all new fossil fuel frontiers and all forms of unconventional gas (both exploration in Scotland and importing from other countries, including other UK jurisdictions), included in this Bill. We would also really like to problematise the idea of ‘safety’ in the context of the emissions budget of Scotland and climate change more generally. From events this year in South Asia, droughts around the world and Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in the Americas, it seems very clear that there is no safe level of climate change. Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Barbuda and Antigua, whose Caribbean islands have just been ravaged by Hurricane Irma recently stated that ‘The science is clear. Climate change is real in the Caribbean we are living with the consequences of climate change. It is unfortunate that there are some who see it differently.’ (Weaver, Phipps, Levin and Lartey, in The Guardian, 7th of September, 2017). As such, the conversation has to become about trying to be as safe as possible and including voices from the majority world, which seems to be more vulnerable to and to have less resilience to dramatic climate events.  

Climate Leadership

While it is great to see the Scottish Government taking on board the Climate Change Committee target of reducing emissions by 90% for 2050 (rather than 80%). The only concern from the Broad Alliance is the desire to stop at 90% when we believe that 100% is achievable. With regards to the questions about interim emissions reduction targets, this would require increasing the ambition of 2030 and 2040 targets to 77% reductions by 2030 and at least 87% by 2040, as well as more ambitious year to year targets over the next decade. Work by Jacobson et al (2017), has examined how generating 100% of the power required for electricity, heating, agriculture and transport is possible from wind, water and sunlight within most of the countries of the world and this is not an unrealistic ambition. 

It is also promising to see that the Scottish Government acknowledge that their is a risk to GDP of climate change mitigation and of moving away from a highly polluting economy, however the risk of ‘business as usual’ is far greater. This is refreshing to hear, because many governments around the world and think tanks do not seem to take this view and present these issues as being the ‘jobs versus the environment’. While Climate change mitigation and prevention is likely to cost governments up to 3.5% of their GDP over time, failing to take any action and allowing the worst climate scenario to occur is more likely to mean a reduction in GDP by at least 11% (possibly up to 20%), due to the disasters. The Broad Alliance welcomes such an observation, however there this is a picture of climate change which is overly abstract and focused on macroeconomics. In order to create greater engagement with these issues, which is a must in a democratic society where policies require some level of popular support, it would also be helpful to also look at climate change in terms of the effects of local places and economies (both in Scotland and in other regions of the world), on habitats, as well as focusing on issues of trauma and displacement that go hand in hand with climate disasters which a warming world make so much more likely. In educational materials about climate change, the Scottish Government must be rigours and scientific, though should not underestimate the power of a narrative about climate change which takes into account the human cost and struggle. The journalist George Monbiot, who is known for his pioneering work to engage citizens in environmental issues has recently recommended that we move a way from a vocabulary of ‘climate change’ to referring to ‘climate breakdown’, as this more accurately depicts the problem which humanity is facing;

'Every aspect of our weather is affected by the fact that global temperatures rose by about 4C between the ice age and the 19th century. And every aspect of our weather is affected by the 1C of global warming caused by human activities. While no weather event can be blamed solely on human-driven warming, none is unaffected by it.’ (George Monbiot, in The Guardian, 29/08/2017). 

Scotland is one of the leaders in western Europe on climate change policy and given this status, we only have the impetuous to be more ambitious. Scotland’s policy may be used as a model by our European and international neighbours when drafting their own policies. Being a ‘Climate Leader’ should not be taken as an acknowledgement of past successes alone and Scotland should work at cultivating and strengthening this status in years to come. Scotland should also be looking to take more of a responsibility for consumption based emissions, which are often attributed to the country in which goods are manufactured, though Scottish consumers and policy makers bear a lot of responsibility for the demand in this situation. Scotland should attempt to start these difficult conversations and dialogues at an international level- including attempting to help other states take into account emissions from shipping. This also involves taking decisions to help countries in the Global South to transition their economies, to leapfrog past the highly polluting early phase of development which countries like the UK were built on and to generate an infrastructure which creates resilience to climate shocks that are already setting in at 1 degrees celsius of climate change.  


This principle reminds the Scottish Government of the importance to keep pushing forward in the direction to a zero-emission economy, and is addressed most explicitly in question 9 of the consultation document- ' What are your views on the proposal that any shortfall against previous targets should be made up through subsequent Climate Change Plans?'

This is incredibly important. If there are shortfalls in achieving targets, they cannot be revised downwards and this should flag up a process which would aim to evaluate what has gone wrong in terms of climate policy and industrial strategy, so that such an issue does not occur in subsequent years. 

Broad Alliance members would also like to see a commitment to 'no new fossil fuel frontiers’, in line with an ambition not to raise global temperatures beyond 1.5oC and to continually lower emissions. There has been a lot of discussion about natural gas as ‘bridge fuel’, a ‘clean’ hydrocarbon, which can complement renewable energy technologies. The Broad Alliance is extremely skeptical about the validity of this assessment, given the previously underestimated fugitive emissions of very potent greenhouse gas methane from unconventional gas extraction, which mean the total carbon footprint of unconventional gas is higher than other fossil fuels (Howarth, 2015). A recent report by the New Climate Institute (2017), also highlights the potential for zero-emissions economies by 2050 and the need to move away from fossil fuel infrastructure to meet the target of 1.5 degrees (Celsius) of warming as outlined in the Paris Agreement. In line with this objective, the Broad Alliance would like to see a ban on all forms of unconventional oil and gas within Scotland, including the importing of shale gas which is currently taking place at the INEOS Refinery at Grangemouth and any potential imports of English unconventional gas products.

EU Emissions Trading Scheme and the need for Transparency and Accountability

The Broad Alliance are very supportive of the Scottish Government’s approach the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The methodology of the ETS could be misleading and imply that companies are decarbonising their Scottish operations when they are really only offsetting operations in other countries. This means that national governments would have very little control over emissions and be too reliant on EU level mechanisms. I think that the conversation about climate needs to be something which takes place regionally, nationally as well as in communities. Broad Alliance members have concerns that having emissions controlled at only the highest level would leave community perspectives underrepresented and large companies and industry lobbying groups with disproportionate voice. The Environmental Impact assessment also highlights that emissions which take place in Scotland, through road traffic emissions for instance, also has direct impacts on human health in the surrounding community in addition to contributing to climate change. This is also the case for many commercial projects which are based in Scotland that contribute to local emissions issues as well as having this global dimension. This means that the conversation has to be inclusive and in order to do that, this must take place at all levels to include all of the stakeholders in these decisions. Scottish Government leadership on this issue and targets are an important part of this. We are fully supportive of this element of the new bill. 

A Hierarchy of Concerns- Communities and Climate Justice over Competitiveness of Highly Polluting Industries

In general, the Broad Alliance are quite impressed with the criteria of the Scottish Government, as proposed within this Bill, where the Government sets out various pressures on climate policy. There are however stipulations and questions which arise when reading this document. We are not at all satisfied with the ‘competitiveness of particular sectors of the Scottish Economy’ section, as this seems very vague and open to interpretations which are problematic and may even halt the transition to a low carbon economy.If this criteria has to be in this section at all, it should be close to the bottom of a hierarchy of priorities, below efforts to create a ‘fair and safe’ emissions budget. As community members living within areas where fracking is proposed, we do not feel that any industry has an inherent right to be based within Scotland. It is clear that incentivising low carbon and renewable technologies, setting strict emissions targets (as well as the concept of a ‘circular economy’), presents a risk to the competitiveness of the unconventional gas industry and potentially wider fossil fuel interests. This should not be viewed as a barrier to updating targets and the Scottish Government should focus on retraining and a just transition for workers within these industries and areas where such industries are based or proposed rather than being cautious about interfering with corporate competitiveness. Where there are conflicts within policy making, it is clear that communities and the most vulnerable should always be the most important concern. The emissions budget must be ‘fair and safe’ for all citizens of the world, knowing that the people and most vulnerable to the effects of climate breakdown may not reside in Scotland, we nonetheless view their wellbeing as Scotland’s moral concern. Having a policy based on 'climate justice’ would mean that community members and the needs of the wider climate are prioritised above corporate interest. The need for a ‘fair and safe emissions budget’ should be viewed as fundamental and supreme, given a higher level of consideration than ‘competitiveness of particular sectors of the Scottish Economy’. 


Howarth, R., W., 2015. Methane emissions and climatic warming risk from hydraulic fracturing and shale gas development: implications for policy. Energy and Emission Control Technologies2015:3 pp.45–54. 

Jacobson et al., 2017 (in press). 100% Clean and Renewable Wind, Water, and Sunlight All-Sector Energy Roadmaps for 139 Countries of the World, Joule, Available at < http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.joule.2017.07.005 >

Monbiot, G. 2017. Why are the crucial questions about Hurricane Harvey not being asked?, in The Guardian, published 29.08.2017. Available at< https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/29/hurricane-harvey-manmade-climate-disaster-world-catastrophe >

New Climate Institute., 2017. Foot off the Gas: Increased Reliance on Natural

Gas in the Power Sector Risks an Emissions Lock-in. CAT Decarbonisation Series - climateactiontracker.orgavailable at < https://newclimateinstitute.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/cat-2017-06-16-decarbonisationseries-naturalgas2.pdf > [Accessed 08/09/2017].

Weaver, M., Phipps, C., Levin, S. and Lartey, J. 2017. Caribbean islands suffer huge damage after Irma – as it happened. In The Guardian, published 07/09/2017. Available at < https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2017/sep/06/hurricane-irma-caribbean-islands-category-5-storm?page=with%3Ablock-59b0ec6ce4b066447a05c903 >

RISE against fracking - assembly passes resolution

At its National Assembly meeting in Edinburgh on September 2, RISE, the radical independence group, voted to support the fight against Unconventional Gas Extraction - Fracking.

The resolution, proposed by two members from Glasgow, was passed unanimously. 

The conference was told that Scotland faces a unique set of circumstances in which issues of climate, jobs, energy and democracy intersect. Core components of the socialist case for a sustainable world would include a permanent ban on fracking, it was suggested in the background to the resolution.

The existing licenses for fracking [Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction - UOGE] were awarded by the UK Government in 2008 but the decision now on fracking was devolved to the Scottish Government as part of the Scotland Act 2016.  

Glasgow City Council, along with other Councils, did ban fracking but this ban was objected to by one of the license holders, and the decision was given back to Scottish Government. The reporter appointed by the Scottish government to consider the situation insisted that Glasgow could not go further than what is contained in the National Planning Framework, which currently does not rule out fracking. This is an insidious erosion of local councils' decisions and an affront to democracy. 

Currently there is a Moratorium on UGE in Scotland, which has been in place since 2015, whereas in England companies are pushing ahead with exploration in the face of massive protests. 

In response to over 60,000 responses received by end of May 2017, when the Scottish Government Consultation closed, and other research, it is hoped that the Scottish Government will make a decision to ban fracking by the end of 2017.


RISE should seek a permanent ban on fracking [Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction - UOGE]. RISE should also endeavour to be active with other groups to bring about this permanent ban on fracking. 

Broad Alliance submits the community case for a ban

Campaigners gathered at Holyrood to hand in thousands of responses to the Scottish Government's consultation, all of them demanding an outright ban.

The groups that form the Broad Alliance have submitted their joint case for ruling this industry out, once and for all, in Scotland. You can read our submission here.

Donald Campbell, Chair of the Alliance presented the submission and thousands of other individual postcard response, to Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse. Around 40,000 people have responded to the public consultation, and it is understood that the vast majority have said a resounding NO to UOGE in Scotland.

"Throughout our active campaigning and extensive engagement in communities threatened with UOGE development, we found absolutely no support anywhere for this industry. In fact we have found universal opposition," said Donald Campbell, joining other BA members at the Scottish Parliament.

"This level of opposition represents a total refusal of any social licence for UOGE in Scotland. If this proves not to be the deciding factor in the decision on whether to ban UOGE, then the Scottish government will have to honestly admit where in Scottish society it has identified support for this industry, and whose interests will be served by permitting it.

"However, today we are hoping that the government is listening and will stick to the promise Nicola Sturgeon made, when she told the Scottish parliament that unless it could be proved UOGE could be done without risk to health and the environment, it would not be permitted."

Knitting Grannies highlight health risks of methane gas

A group of Knitting Grannies against Unconventional Gas will gather outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, on Thursday 25th May from 12 noon – 2pm to knit beanies for babies and to urge people to take the opportunity to make their voice heard on unconventional gas (fracking) in Scotland.

The Scottish government's public consultation is open now but ends on May 31st. The Knitting Grannies want people to take the opportunity to make clear that there is no social licence for this industry anywhere in Scotland.

When completed, the Beanies will be presented to the Neo Natal Unit at NHS Forth Valley. NHS Forth Valley is located in Larbert, Falkirk close to an area where 22 coal bed methane wells could could be drilled if the Scottish government don't ban unconventional gas.

Rhona MacLeod, a retired RN and OH Nurse, who's the 'Knitting Granny against Unconventional Gas' tasked with organising this event said:

"I'm excited to be using my creative and other skills to raise awareness in this way! A call-out has already been made for more volunteers to join us on Thursday, and we ask that they 'BYO' folding chair, knitting needles or crochet hooks and some machine-washable pure wool in pink, blue or yellow."

Rhona spent time in Australia, where she was part of Lock The Gate, the Australian community-based campaign against unconventional gas. She points out  that the company that originally wanted to drill in Forth Valley, Dart Energy, was forced out of New South Wales when the state government there introduced a 2km buffer zone to protect communities and what the NSW government called "Critical Industry Clusters".

Dart then moved into Scotland, with a licence for 22 coal bed methane wells, a compressor station and other infrastructure, at Airth. In the end they sold off their licence to INEOS, who have said in their literature that a 400m buffer zone is sufficient protection for communities in Scotland and more recently suggest the distance could be even less.

Maria Montinaro, of Concerned Communities of Falkirk (www.faug.org.uk) said: "This event is important because:

1.   We need to highlight the Scottish Government's current public consultation on Unconventional Oil & Gas Extraction (aka fracking) that ends on 31st May – and thereby encourage more people to respond.

2.   People need to understand the potential environmental and health impacts from UOGE/ fracking. Those at greatest risk are the most vulnerable in our society - babies in the developmental stages of life. They have no voice and they're particularly at risk of developing neo-natal health problems. We are not scaremongering as the industry would have you believe.

3.   The environmental and health effects /impacts, both short and long term, of UOGE/fracking are not properly understood or even known yet. The risks, together with the:

  • inevitable industrialisation of our countryside
  • constraints of population density
  • opposition of local communities under threat
  • extensive underground mine workings, and 
  • pre-existing seismicity and fault lines in the Central Belt

mean a ban is the only rational option."

"The global alert released in 2012 by United Nations Environment Programme acknowledged that it is impossible to regulate this industry into safety and unintended impacts are inevitable:

UG exploitation and production may have unavoidable environmental impacts. Some risks result if the technology is not used adequately, but others will occur despite proper use of technology. UG production has the potential to generate considerable GHG emissions, can strain water resources, result in water contamination, may have negative impacts on public health (through air and soil contaminants; noise pollution), on biodiversity (through land clearance), food supply (through competition for land and water resources), as well as on soil (pollution, crusting).’ (UNEP Global Environmental Alert System 2012)"

For those who're unable to attend donations of completed beanies are welcome. People can make contact with Rhona to make arrangements for uplift or posting. We've been asked by the Neo Natal Unit to ensure they're made with wool that's machine-washable.

More information about the proposed drilling in Airth.

The application to drill at Airth was challenged by communities and at a public enquiry both Falkirk and Stirling Councils, with a population of over 240,000 people, recommended refusal.

They based this view on a peer review of the evidence on the impact of coal seam gas from Australia, the kind of evidence that led the NSW government introduce the buffer zone and also start buying back licences to prevent further development.

There were specific objections to the Dart application from:

  • 9 Falkirk Community Councils representing 70,000+ residents,
  • West Fife & Coastal Villages Community Councils Forum representing 18 coastal villages, representing 20,000+
  • 33 local farmers
  • Network Rail
  • Cala Consortium

The public enquiry was completed and the reporter was considering his decision when the Scottish government introduced the moratorium on unconventional gas. At that point it was decided to hold off until a nationwide decision is reached.

More than 5,000 petition Scottish government to ban fracking

Campaigners hand in petition

Campaigners from Torrance and Strathaven are heading for Holyrood (Tuesday May 2nd, 3pm) to hand in a petition calling for a ban on fracking, and all forms of unconventional oil and gas. They'd love it if people from the Broad Alliance could join them.

5,187 signed the petition, organised through 38 Degrees, was started by East Dunbartonshire resident Ruth Dunster who explained: 

I live in Torrance, a beautiful village in a scenic, unspoilt valley in Scotland. I  found out last year that Ineos Upstream Ltd have plans for a fracking operation here - and in a whole swathe of communities in other areas across Scotland. Fracking is a process which forces water deep underground at very high pressure to force gas to the surface. It has an appalling and frightening track record around several countries, especially the USA and Australia.
The Scottish Government is already being lobbied by powerful companies like Ineos to move away from our renewable energy strategy and invest in this toxic and dangerous industry instead. Please tell the Ministers responsible for energy and environment policies that we want Scotland to invest in renewable energy technologies and refuse to grant fracking licenses to companies like Ineos Upstream.
Scotland is at the turning point. Either we invest in the sort of technologies out there for clean, cheap energy - like Norway's huge hydro power scheme which creates most of their energy - or we go down the toxic energy road of the fracking business lobby's plans.

Economic boom? Think Again

This text was produced by the Broad Alliance in response to an article In Scottish Review written by fossil fuel industry lobbyist Ryan Stevenson. Stevenson claimed that Scotland would be turning its back on a hugely profitable new industry if it did not go for UOGE. The article was published in the review on 29 November.

Ryan Stevenson's claim (11 November) that UOGE (unconventional oil and gas extraction) would be an 'economic boom' for Scotland is refuted by KPMG’s impact study conducted for the Scottish Government. Perhaps he hasn’t read it.

The KPMG report states: 'According to our estimates, the industry could represent an average of 0.1% of Scottish GDP (2015 figure) in our Central scenario and 0.3% in our High scenario which is not a large contribution to the Scottish economy.' The total additional impact of UOGE on the Scottish economy would be a paltry £30m a year over 42 years.

The total of jobs would be 1400 FTE at the peak and even that would depend on how well pads are developed – if it is simply one or two teams going from place to place, the total will be even lower. And many of those jobs will be for HGV drivers, transporting waste water and liquid gas around on Scotland’s roads. Why on earth would Scottish communities give any social licence to an industry that carries such risks in return for such paltry amounts?

The SNP’s 2016 election manifesto declares: 'We will not allow fracking or underground coal gasification in Scotland unless it can be proved beyond any doubt that it will not harm our environment, communities or public health.'

This position accords with the precautionary principle and is the reason for the Scottish Government’s (SG) ban on underground coal gasification (UCG). The same precautionary principle led to New York State’s ban on fracking in December 2014. The compendium of scientific, medical, and media findings demonstrating risks and harms of fracking, compiled by Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York, underpins this decision.

INEOS owner Jim Ratcliffe’s assertion that 'there is no science behind the vocal minority’s opposition,' is blatantly false. The expanding body of scientific evidence (200 peer-reviewed studies on fracking published so far this year), presented to the Scottish Government by the Broad Alliance, provides more than sufficient scientific evidence for an immediate ban. It is the view of the Pennsylvania Medical Association, who in October called for a ban on fracking.

Ratcliffe’s contention that over a million shale wells have been safely drilled in the US, and that the US is 'the most highly regulated market' also needs exposing in view of the Halliburton Loophole.

At the behest of Vice President Dick Cheney, former chief executive of Halliburton, the US Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted the hydraulic fracturing drilling process from the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act and stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate UOGE. Without these exemptions, it is unlikely that the industry would have been able to proceed. The idea that INEOS, the major licence holder in Scotland and across the UK, wants us to take the US as a model for regulation is deeply concerning.

The impact studies show that permitting UOGE will scupper Scotland’s emissions targets. The climate change committee’s impact study says UOGE can only be permitted if it displaces imports – but this is now unachievable because INEOS has a contract to import gas from the US for at least the next 15 years. UOGE produced in Scotland would be additional. A further requirement is that emissions must be offset by reductions elsewhere. The largest forecast is that UOGE would produce 1.6 million tons of CO2e/year by 2035. So where can such savings be found?

As Dr Iain Black put it: '1.6 million tons of CO2e/year is larger than the savings the whole Scottish agricultural sector has been asked to make. So, in effect, we are saying: "Thank you, farmers of Scotland, all your hard work reducing emissions is going to allow us to turn swathes of the central belt into industrial zones and to threaten the water you use." Good luck selling that'. 

The climate impact report also demands well-by-well monitoring of emissions and a framework for rapid shutdown. But a recent study by Professor Andrew Watterson of Stirling University found that the UK’s regulatory agencies are not equipped to deliver intensive regulation.

It is implausible that an under-resourced SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) could properly regulate something of the nature and scale of the UOGE industry, in the most densely populated region of Scotland where extensive underground mine-workings and geological faulting constitute unique and novel extractive challenges. Moreover, Scottish communities would not agree to additional funding to regulate an industry which represents minimal economic benefit for them or their country. SEPA is stretched to the limit already – how much would their budget need to increase to achieve the regulation needed, and why should we pay it?

KPMG’s study does not even attempt to quantify negative impacts on existing sustainable and currently healthy industries including tourism, construction, farming, food and drink – or our whisky industry, which is reliant on pure, clean Scottish water. Studies in America have shown house prices fall within two miles of a well by 25%, with many home owners unable to sell. Estate agents in the central belt of Scotland report they are already being asked about possible well locations, and have estimated a drop of 10% in house prices.

The industry hails Aberdeen as an example of the prosperity oil and gas could bring communities embracing UOGE but Grangemouth, at the dirty end of the business, is the more realistic comparison. In spite of Grangemouth hosting multiple petrochemical giants, five of the datazones in Grangemouth fall within the bottom 15% of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation and residents’ circumstances are not improving.

On these bases we do not foresee an 'economic boom' from UOGE, but rather a wholesale harm to the economic health and environment of communities across Scotland’s most productive region, and a complete loss of faith in government regulation and action on climate change. That’s a high price to pay for an industry that we now know for sure will deliver no real economic benefit to the Scottish economy.

Donald Campbell writes here on behalf of the Broad Alliance of Concerned Communities Against Unconventional Gas, a lobby group

Question your health board about UGE impacts

Our Forth decided that it would prudent to ensure that there are adequate measures and resources in place to cope with any potential health implication brought of any Unconventional Gas developments in Scotland. Of course, we all hope these won't be needed, but if the government were to start to permit UGE, including test drilling, Health Boards and NHS Scotland need to be starting to think now about the implications.

Our Forth have put the following questions to NHS Lothian, and NHS Scotland. They suggest that all the groups should follow suit. Your relevant health board will have an annual review process, but this may be over. However, there are still opportunities to submit questions and to attend open meetings. Check your health board's website for details.

We have included a general question to ask from the floor if you attend a meeting, and more detailed questions to be submitted in writing in advance. We have also included questions for NHS Scotland, and we believe it would be good if all the groups of the Broad Alliance asked these questions.

Please send any replies to info@broad-alliance.org and we will collate them, providing useful evidence.

Question to ask from the floor at a health board meeting:

What steps have you taken to protect public health against the risks associated with unconventional energy generation?

Questions to submit in advance to your health board

1) Health Board: What protocols do you have in place, or in development, to address the health risks and adverse effects resulting from the range of existing and emerging energy generation techniques?  (Including, but not limited to, unconventional gas extraction (UGE), biomass and renewables.)

2) Health Board: What training is available to clinical and support staff who will need to respond to the chronic and acute health needs of people affected by unconventional gas extraction, such as fracking and UCG?

3)What systems, baseline measures and monitoring are
   - in place already
   - in development
to measure the prevalence and nature of health conditions (reflecting all body systems, including, but not limited to, respiratory, dermatological and oncological diseases and mental health conditions) caused by fracking, UCG and other forms of UGE?

4) Health Board: What steps will you take in the event of inadequate measures being taken by bodies such as SEPA, in order to protect public health?

5) Health Board and NHS Health Scotland: Given that prevention is much more cost effective that treatment or cure, to what extent does NHS Lothian’s/NHS Health Scotland’s budget invest in preventing ill-health resulting from unconventional gas extraction, biomass and other energy production technologies?

6) Health Board and NHS Health Scotland: Have impact assessments been undertaken to assess and negate the impact of unconventional gas extraction and other energy generation techniques, such as biomass and renewables?  If so, are these impact assessments available in the public domain?

Questions for NHS Scotland

1) Unconventional fuel extraction is most likely to affect densely population parts of Scotland, and those with lower incomes will be least able to move home or take other steps to avoid the negative health effects of technologies such as fracking, including test drilling. What protocols and other measures do you have in place or in development to counter the health inequalities experienced by communities affected by fracking, other forms of UGE, biomass and other forms of energy generation, including renewables?

2)Have impact assessments been undertaken to assess and negate the impact of unconventional gas extraction and other energy generation techniques, such as biomass and renewables?  If so, are these impact assessments available in the public domain?

In defence of Professor David Smythe

Concerned Communities of Falkirk have come to the defence of Professor David Smythe, whose rights as an Emeritus Professor of Geophysics at the University of Glasgow, are under attack. Leaked emails suggest the reason the University has withdrawn his email address and most crucially access to the global research community and publications, is because of what he is written about the danger of Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction.

You can read the letter, and more about the case, in their letter published in The Ferret, here