Scottish ministers have been accused of “foot-dragging” after it emerged that the promised public consultation on fracking has been delayed until the autumn, pushing the outcome beyond the Scottish election in 2016.
The Sunday Herald understands from political sources that the Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, is planning to tell the Scottish Parliament soon that the consultation will begin in November and run until January. This is months later than many were expecting.
The delay has been criticised by both the Scottish Greens, who oppose fracking, and by the Scottish Conservatives, who favour it. Community and environmental groups have cautiously welcomed the news, while the fracking industry has sounded neutral or kept silent.
When Ewing announced a temporary moratorium on fracking and coalbed methane developments on 28 January, he promised a health investigation and a public consultation. He said he would announce the consultation “in around two months” and it would last for 12 weeks.
But the delay now means that any decision to maintain or end the moratorium is unlikely to be made before the Scottish election in May 2016. The most advanced proposals for exploiting coalbed methane at Airth near Falkirk were originally scheduled to start in 2013.