Scotland politics

Scottish Lib Dems make U-turn on fracking by supporting ban

Fracking demo picture Image copyright AP
Image caption The fracking method of extracting gas is fiercely opposed by campaigners

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are to campaign for a ban on fracking despite a conference vote calling for current restrictions to be lifted.

Delegates to last week's party gathering passed an amendment to end the Scottish government's moratorium on the controversial energy capture.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie was known to be against that decision.

Now the party's policy committee has reversed the decision and a ban on fracking will appear in its manifesto.

Scotland's voters will go to the polls on 5 May to choose who their next MSPs will be.

Mr Rennie explained that although members had voted to lift the moratorium on fracking and unconventional gas extraction, they had also supported a pre-manifesto commitment to move from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy.

He added that fracking was neither a "clean" nor a "renewable" energy.

Concerns over fracking

Mr Rennie said: "Allowing it in this country would harm our pursuit of a greener Scotland.

"We need an energy mix that will help us cut down on emissions, not boost them.

"Fossil fuels will remain part of the picture for years to come but our focus must be on supporting renewables rather than increasing carbon emissions.

"We don't want to distract from this by opening up a whole new front of carbon-based fuels and energy production."

The U-turn was confirmed after the Liberal Democrats' policy committee - which includes Mr Rennie and energy spokesman Liam McArthur - met on Thursday night.

Opponents of the energy capture claim it causes earthquakes and pollutes water supplies.

The Scottish Greens, along with the Labour Party have voiced their objection to fracking.

The SNP-led Scottish government put a moratorium on the technique while detailed research was being carried out.

Energy minister Fergus Ewing said his administration was taking a "cautious, evidence-led" approach, adding it would look at the evidence first and decide its position on hydraulic fracturing in due course.

What is fracking and why is it controversial?

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Media captionThe BBC's David Shukman explains how fracking works
  • 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

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