Fracking row continues as SNP say their motion was “ignored”

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 19:29 on 19 December 2014.
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North Lanarkshire Council SNP Group Leader, Councillor David Stocks.
DAVID STOCKS, Leader of the SNP Group at North Lanarkshire Council has hit out at the majority Labour group, claiming they refused to allow a debate on an SNP motion on hydraulic fracturing.

Councillor Stocks, an SNP member for Airdrie Central has told Cumbernauld Media that the SNP’s motion was simply “ignored” by the ruling Labour group.

The fiery debate over a proposed moratorium on the controversial method of underground gas extraction, hydraulic fracturing, but referred to as ‘fracking’, has been ongoing since the council voted yesterday (18 December) that a moratorium is right, but that the Scottish Government should introduce it, rather than the council.

Two motions were entered on the agenda – both of which ultimately called for a moratorium on fracking, to be declared by North Lanarkshire Council. 

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."

Councillors Baird and Hogg had their motion retracted on the basis of the authority’s ‘six-month’ rule, so the SNP Group lent their support to the first motion – which was amended and passed.

The amendment meant that the original motion – which read: “This Council has grave concerns regarding unconventional gas extraction and to this end supports a moratorium on the development of this technology throughout North Lanarkshire.” – became: “We [North Lanarkshire Council] agree to the sentiment of the motion and a moratorium should be introduced. We [North Lanarkshire Council] call on the Scottish Government to do so immediately,” and was passed by a vote of the majority of members. 

SNP Group Leader, Councillor David Stocks, has said the move equated to the majority Labour Group “ignoring” the SNP motion, and an issue of “serious concern” to people throughout North Lanarkshire.

Councillor Stocks said: “The SNP motion was much more detailed than the independents’ motion. Crucially, the SNP were calling for the Council to be particularly protective towards land designed by the Coal Authority on their website as ‘High Risk Development Areas’ and to consider such land as inappropriate for fracking.”

“The SNP motion was highlighting a serious concern directly related to North Lanarkshire, where there is widespread geological faulting in former coalfield areas.”

“Fracking is very risky under such rock conditions. SNP Councillor Paddy Hogg has studied the fracking issue deeply and he put a lot of work into this detailed motion.”

Councillor Stocks said the move to bin the SNP Group motion was nothing short of “an insult to people in these former mining areas”.

Councillor Stocks added: “The SNP is the Opposition Group, with 25 councillors and over 40% of the North Lanarkshire vote. The independents normally muster only a derisory two votes when they try to move resolutions at the Council, yet it was only their resolution which was allowed. In the end, to record our concerns about fracking, the SNP had no option but to support the inferior motion from the two independents and lose the right to specifically defend the old coalfield areas.”
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