McClymont branded a ‘hypocrite’ over fracking moratorium abstention

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 12:25 on 29 January 2015.
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Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East Labour MP, Gregg McClymont.
LABOUR MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, Gregg McClymont has no “ounce of humility”, according to his critics, after he abstained on a crucial amendment to the Infrastructure Bill earlier this week.

During a debate in the House of Commons on Monday (26 January) afternoon, an amendment called ‘clause nine’ failed to get the necessary party support to be passed. 

A vote on the amendment to the Infrastructure Bill currently going through Westminster returned a result of 52 in favour of the amendment, with 308 against it. Most Labour MPs abstained on the amendment’s vote – despite a pledge from Scottish Labour Leader, Jim Murphy that his party would ban fracking in Scotland only days beforehand. 

The ‘clause nine’ amendment, as some commentators have now dubbed it, called for the “development consisting of the exploitation of unconventional petroleum in Great Britain” to be “discontinued during the relevant period.”

It added: “The Secretary of State must ensure that an independent assessment is undertaken of the exploitation of unconventional petroleum in Great Britain including the use of high volume hydraulic fracturing.”

According to the amendment’s text the assessment of the exploitation of the unconventional petroleum “must take account of the impacts” upon issues such as climate change, the environment, health and safety, and the economy.

Following a debate of the amendment, Members voted on the clause before them – delivering a blow for anti-fracking campaigners by voting 308 to 52 against the amendment. 

Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East’s Labour MP stood alongside his colleagues – and, when the vote took place, he like many other Labour MPs abstained on the clause nine vote. His actions have since raised eyebrows with opponents.

Comments left on Mr McClymont’s Facebook page were damning of his failure to vote on the moratorium amendment. 

One comment asked the MP, “Have you not even an ounce of humility. You and your colleagues fail to attend the House of Commons vote at the weekend on the moratorium on fracking. Do you make an apology to your constituents?”

“No - you post this nonsense on Facebook,” the user replied angrily. 

The user added: “Please remove me immediately from your distribution list as I don't want to ever receive a post from you again. Hopefully after the General Election the only thing I will need to do to avoid you is to steer clear of the Job Centre on your signing day.”

Another comment branded Mr McClymont a “hypocrite”, adding: “You abstained yesterday, and now you're against it today? The sooner we get Labour out of Cumbernauld the better. Hypocrites.”

Responding to his critics directly the Labour man posted a short statement on his Facebook page’s wall. He told his followers: “The Labour Party defeated the Tories on fracking last night so that much stricter controls are in place across rest of the UK. 

“Scottish Labour have been very clear that there should be no fracking in Scotland without a local referendum on the issue and local people would have to agree before any planning permission granted. 

As well as this, we propose halting any fracking in Scotland until the lessons of fracking in the rest of the UK are learned and ensuring that a comprehensive review of the baseline conditions before any planning application is granted.”

He added: “Compare to the SNP who in Holyrood have always had control over the planning and permitting regime, giving them an effective veto over any developments in Scotland. Their silence on these existing powers is deafening. 

“The so-called moratorium SNP MP’s voted for is nothing more than gesture politics at odds with what SNP Government does in Edinburgh.”

Mr McClymont’s reply came after an earlier statement to the press in which he welcomed the recent pledge by Scottish Labour Party Leader, Jim Murphy that a Labour-controlled Scottish Government would ban onshore hydraulic fracturing, if the party won the 2016 Scottish Parliament election.

According to the party’s new policy, Scottish Labour would introduce a triple-lock system to halt any onshore fracking taking place in Scotland until environmental and health safeguards were in place. 

The lock would include a local referendum on the matter, before planning consent is given to exploration firms; halting any fracking activities taking place in Scotland until more evidence of its advantages and negatives are known; additionally, the triple-lock would also include a comprehensive review of the baseline conditions before any planning application is granted.

Commenting about the policy announcement, Gregg McClymont said: “People are rightly concerned about shale gas. They are worried that it will be imposed on their community against their will and without their consent. Labour will not let that happen.

“The next Labour Government will give local communities full control over onshore fracking in their area through a local referendum. No development will be able to take place without a majority of local residents endorsing any planning decision.

“In the past Scotland has been used as a testing ground for bad policies. Mrs Thatcher’s poll tax is an example of this. That should never happen again. No application for onshore fracking will even be considered in Scotland until we see what happens in other parts of the UK. We will not let Scotland become a guinea pig for fracking.

“In Scotland we have a beautiful and bountiful landscape, and a fragile ecosystem that we must protect. Almost all of Scotland is considered to be a drinking water protection area. With this heightened sensitivity, it would be reckless and unnecessary to push ahead with fracking without a thorough and comprehensive review of the baseline conditions in Scotland before any applications can be permitted.

"The SNP Government in Edinburgh already has a veto over fracking through planning and permitting. The First Minister should use these powers now to stop any fracking taking place in Scotland.

"With the new powers coming to Scotland through the Smith Agreement, all decisions about fracking will soon be made here. The UK Government should suspend the current licensing round for fracking until the powers have been devolved. These decisions about Scotland need to be made in Scotland."

The Scottish National Party (SNP) say that the Scottish Labour Party’s policy is a “complete sham”, with the party accusing Mr McClymont and his colleagues of “publicity and political gain”.

Mike Weir MP, the SNP’s energy spokesperson lampooned the party’s abstention of the clause nine vote on Monday evening.

“Scottish Labour have been found out,” he said.

“Scottish Labour have proven themselves to be a complete sham on fracking. After a weekend of posturing Jim Murphy’s MPs failed to back a fracking moratorium. Clearly they are now just announcing policies, any policies for publicity and political gain yet doing nothing to follow them through.

“Their pathetic motion did not involve a moratorium, and did not even apply to Scotland.  

“The SNP support a UK moratorium to ensure that no more licences for fracking are granted before full powers over licensing are transferred to the Scottish Parliament.

“Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has written to the UK Government asking them not to issue any more licences in Scotland, but today’s vote could have forced them to stop. This would have ensured that the Tory days of gung-ho fracking policies come to an end in Scotland and we could develop our own system when powers are devolved.

“The Scottish Government has taken a cautious, considered and evidence based approach and this is a perfect illustration why all powers over fracking, both licensing and planning, should be transferred to the Scottish Parliament so it is able to take decisions in the interests of the people of Scotland.”
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