At Holyrood yesterday, 15th March 2016, Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, told the chamber that the moratorium on unconventional gas extraction, which runs until the end of 2017, will be succeeded by ‘a national debate’ on fracking.
That debate was, of course, infamously stopped down by the party apparatchiks at both the SNP’s Autumn 2015 party conference in Aberdeen and again at the weekend, at its Spring 2016 Conference n Glasgow.
It appears that once the May 2016 Scottish Election is in the bag and the SNP faithful have deposited both votes for the party – with nothing apparently to give them pause for thought, the country at large will be allowed to say what it thinks about fracking where SNP members have been repeatedly gagged from so doing.
Mr Ewing said – with reason: ‘It is right however, that we study these matters with an evidenced-based approach.’
Of course that is right. Only David Cameron makes major decisions on the spur of the moment, lofted by a breeze of transient public opinion.
The problem is with the electorally expedient tactics of the SNP. They deployed the extended moratorium to bury the issue beyond a succession of major visits to the ballot box, setting out to deceive their own substantial number of anti-fracking grassroots members into interpreting the moratorium as a statement of further intent.
The permanent change to the fortunes of the North Sea – which will of course have a future but a different and less fiscally rewarding one – leaves the SNP with no choice but to licence fracking to earn the revenues to support the ever increasing spending promises they are still chucking out on top of the welter of those already made.
The alternative is to abandon the myth of the coming golden age or hike taxes to pay for it [which would be some hike] – and watch the businesses and the working population head out to the south, with a deep black hole in achievable tax revenues.
The bottom line is that the SNP-led Scotland absolutely needs serious money to get near making its promises a reality – and that fracking will – and indeed must – happen.
The truism that ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’ means that if you choose the lunch – and Scotland is choosing to lunch extravagantly into the future – you need a long spoon to serve up the means to provide it.
It would be luddite not to frack. Scotland’s economy, its deficit and its borrowing levels are in desperate need of that serious stimulus.
It would also be irresponsible not to frack with serious regulations to govern environmental issues around, as the major example, the safe disposal of fracking fluids – a much more contentious issue than anything else.
The trouble is in the nature of the devious long spoon the SNP are using to get to the point of making it happen. One cannot respect that.
The ‘national debate’ will be interesting. Will it be a question again of ‘hearing but not listening’?
Scotland will be a busy and a noisy place from this summer onwards, with the ‘national debate’ on fracking – which will be engaged and divisive; and the ‘national conversation’ on independence promised by the First Minister to start at the same time and aimed at ‘persuading’ the doubters – which will also be engaged and divisive.