Political battle-lines drawn over fracking

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 10:30 on 30 January 2015.
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Stuart McDonald (left) with Jamie Hepburn MSP (right). Picture: supplied.
GREGG McClymont, Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East’s Labour MP has been criticised by his opposite political numbers, after “refusing” to support a UK-wide moratorium, in a Commons vote, earlier this week.

As we reported earlier yesterday (29 January), Gregg McClymont has been attacked for having 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 to the Infrastructure Bill which called for a UK-wide moratorium on fracking fell, with 52 MPs voting in favour of the amendment and 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. 

Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East’s Labour MP was one of the Labour members who followed the party whip – 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 over the past few days have been 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.”

With local voters having had their say, Mr McClymont’s political opponents have now chipped in their two pennies worth.

Jamie Hepburn, Cumbernauld and Kilsyth’s SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament said Mr McClymont had illustrated “sheer hypocrisy” in abstaining on the vote on a UK-wide moratorium, on Monday evening.

He added: “The SNP have acted consistently on this matter and this announcement is in line with the cautious evidence based approach taken to date. We are listening to campaigners and the strength of feeling in local communities.

“This is, without a doubt a difficult issue and I have been challenged at various public meetings on the Scottish Government’s stance on this. I am happy to defend the approach that the Scottish Government has taken on this matter and which has delivered today’s moratorium.

“It is sheer hypocrisy for Mr McClymont to seek to claim any sort of credit for any progress on this matter.

“He claims he does not want Scotland to be used as a fracking guinea pig, then refused to support a UK wide moratorium. Clearly he is happy enough for the rest of the UK to be used as a fracking guinea pig.

“What even is Mr McClymont’s position on fracking? We know that he could have supported a UK-wide moratorium but he didn’t bother to vote one way or the other.”

Stuart McDonald, the SNP’s prospective parliamentary candidate for May’s General Election – and Gregg McClymont’s contender for the Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East seat has also criticised Mr McClymont’s decision to abstain.

Mr McDonald also welcomed the Scottish Government’s decision to put a moratorium in place on fracking, and congratulated local activists on their articulate and passionate campaign. 

Mr McDonald said: “This is welcome news, and campaigners across Scotland and here in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth are to be congratulated that all their hard work up until now has paid off. 

“The Scottish Government also deserves praise for its cautious and evidence-based approach to unconventional gas extraction, which has brought it to this sensible conclusion. 

“As I’ve said from the outset, I will always stand alongside local groups in opposition to fracking anywhere in this constituency.”

“Mr McClymont’s voting record is increasingly difficult to understand.  Last week he told readers of the Cumbernauld News and Chronicle that he was all for stopping fracking.  Yet at Westminster on Monday night, unlike SNP MPs, he chose not to support a moratorium on fracking.  How on earth does that stack up?”
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