Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is facing mounting criticism after it was revealed that she met with pro-fracking Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe on the same day that Scotland announced a moratorium on fracking.
The January 28 meeting between Sturgeon and Ratcliffe coincided with a U-turn from Ineos. Just 48 hours prior, the firm had spoken out against a moratorium, saying delays would risk the collapse of UK manufacturing, according to the Herald Scotland.
Yet, following the moratorium announcement from Fergus Ewing, SNP energy minister, Ineos welcomed the moratorium. Industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas performed a similar U-turn when the moratorium was announced.
The Scottish Government was widely praised in January for halting all planning consents for unconventional oil and gas extraction until further research on its impact is conducted. However, environmentalists are now sceptical as to what was said during the secret meeting between Sturgeon and Ratcliffe to allow for Ineos’ U-turn.
“What promises were made in exchange for their public support for the moratorium? I fear that local communities are being stitched up by backroom deals,” said Ed Pybus, spokesman for Frack Off Scotland.
This was echoed by Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, who told the Herald that communities across Scotland would be “alarmed to learn that the First Minister was meeting Ineos on the very day of the announcement of the moratorium.”
He added: “Ineos plan 1,400 wells across Scotland and seem to be carrying on as if there was no moratorium.”
Questions on whether testing and drilling is covered by the moratorium raised in February by Lewis Macdonald, Labour shadow energy minister, continue to go unanswered.
Macdonald said: “People are bound to wonder what Nicola Sturgeon had to say to Ineos while her energy minister was on his feet in the Scottish Parliament claiming that he was imposing a moratorium on fracking.
“Was she apologising to them for doing it? Was she telling them to forget about fracking in Scotland? Or did Nicola Sturgeon meet Ineos to tell them not to worry about the moratorium, it would only apply until after the next Holyrood election, and in the meantime they could explore for fracking opportunities anywhere in Scotland that took their fancy?”
The date of the meeting between Sturgeon and Ineos was revealed under a freedom of information request. According to a spokeswoman for the Scottish Government, the meeting was scheduled in December, long before Ewing’s parliamentary statement.
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