Is Scottish Government’s strategy to preventing fracking ‘a skilful act of governance’?

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In the tweet above, today, M J Keatings is much impressed by the Scottish government’s avoidance of the risks inherent in any direct attempt to ban fracking. He wittily described it as Schrödinger’s moratorium where, ‘in the box’, it is both a living and a defunct ban, at the same time. With no actual ban implemented, Ineos had no case to make.

In the Holyrood magazine today, we see the same understanding:

‘Oil and gas giant Ineos has lost its legal challenge of the Scottish Government fracking ban. Ineos and Aberdeen firm Reach CSG were seeking a judicial review of the Scottish Government’s ban on unconventional oil and gas extraction – which includes fracking and coalbed methane extraction – which the companies claimed was “unlawful”. A moratorium on fracking has been in place since 2015 and in October this was extended “indefinitely”, with Minister for Business, Energy and Innovation Paul Wheelhouse pledging to use planning laws to “effectively ban” the process in Scotland. At the Court of Session in Edinburgh today, Lord Pentland found that the Scottish Government’s “preferred policy position” of no support for fracking does not amount to a legally enforceable prohibition and therefore INEOS had no case.’

https://www.holyrood.com/articles/news/ineos-loses-fracking-court-case-against-scottish-government

So, is this use of planning legislation to ‘effectively ban’ fracking, a secure guarantee against any future change, leading to permission being given for fracking? Well, unless we see a Conservative government at Holyrood, it seems to be so. No other party supports fracking. Labour and the Greens have previously called on the Scottish government to actually implement a ban, but it seems likely that to do so would only invite court action which might result in the overthrow of the ban. So, on balance, it looks a smart move and one deserving of recognition. Pat Kane clearly thinks there should be a hue and crue about it:

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