Council calls for Scottish Government fracking moratorium

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 18:19 on 18 December 2014.
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COUNCILLORS have failed to back two motions which called for a North Lanarkshire Council-led moratorium on the controversial method of underground gas extraction, known as hydraulic fracturing – or, ‘fracking’ – instead calling on the Scottish Government to deliver a moratorium, immediately.

At a full meeting of North Lanarkshire earlier this evening (18 December), elected members throughout the region were asked to back a ban on the controversial method of gas extraction, known as ‘fracking’.

Fracking has been criticised by opponents for causing earthquakes, poisoning water supplies and polluting the atmosphere. The motions laid before the council today (18 December) ultimately called for the process to be halted. 

Fracking is a process whereby a drill is sent down a borehole to fracture the underground rock core, before high pressure water is injected into the borehole, alongside sand – which keeps the fissures open - to force the gas out of the cores and up the borehole, for extraction.

The first of the motions called for the authority to note its “grave concerns regarding unconventional gas extraction”, adding that the council should back “a moratorium on the development of this technology throughout North Lanarkshire."

The motion was proposed by the new Scottish Green Party Councillor for Strathkelvin, Councillor Frances McGlinchey, and Cumbernauld Independent Councillors’ Alliance member, Alan O'Brien.

In a second motion to full council, Cumbernauld South Nationalist Councillor, Paddy Hogg and his colleague, David Baird – an SNP member for Mossend and Holytown – urged the council to “adopt a precautionary principle” towards fracking.

Their full motion read: "In accord with the framework and principles of the Local Development Plan to protect public health and environmental safety, Council shall adopt a precautionary principle towards land designed by the Coal Authority on their website as 'High Risk Development Areas' and consider this land inappropriate for unconventional gas extraction (including hydraulic fracturing, known as 'fracking' or coal bed methane extraction) including any form of exploratory bore hole, due to the potential for subsidence or other environmental risks. Moreover, given the Airth Public Inquiry, called−in by the Scottish Government during 2014, Council shall also adopt the precautionary principle and accordingly calls for a moratorium to be declared until it is established beyond reasonable doubt that coal bed methane extraction and 'fracking' are deemed 'safe' by independent scientific experts."

The second motion was defeated in a final vote, with Labour using its overarching majority in the 70-seat chamber to throw out the motion.

Cumbernauld Media understands that Councillor Hogg and Baird had their motion denied under the six-month rule, with the SNP Group then lending their support to Councillor McGlinchey and O’Brien’s motion in a bid to change Council policy.

Although Cllr McGlinchey and O’Brien’s motion wasn’t passed in its original format either, the leading Labour group managed to push through an amendment to the motion which agreed with the sentiment of the motion from the Strathkelvin and Cumbernauld North Councillors – but called for an immediate moratorium to be called by the Scottish Government, rather than by North Lanarkshire Council.

At present, Labour has 41 Councillors throughout North Lanarkshire; the SNP has 25; there is one Cumbernauld Independent Councillors’ Alliance member; 2 independent Councillors, and one Scottish Green Councillor.
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