I AM delighted and mightily relieved that the Scottish Government has decided effectively to ban fracking by extending the moratorium indefinitely. It seems, though, as if the controversy will still run and run and I am quite insulted to be classed as one of a “small but noisy anti-science and anti-business minority”. I am in no minority, as I can still count on the fingers of one hand those of my wide acquaintance who support fracking in this densely populated area with its vast, unmapped rabbit-warren of disused mine-workings, which have already caused subsidence in a variety of locations.

Those who are currently frothing at the mouth in defence of fracking claim they want to protect jobs and the economy for the future, to distract us from their real objective of making lots of money. It must certainly be galling to lose the right to frack, when Ineos has spent the last year or more buying up as much fossil fuel infrastructure as possible, presumably in the hope that this big stick would make it impossible to deny them fracking. Would it not have been better if, a few years ago, Ineos had moved on to investing in carbon capture when huge sums could have been made while Scotland was the only country with the skills and technology?

In all that I have read and heard, however, one serious problem has never been mentioned. That is, who will be held responsible and pay the compensation if damage is done to houses? Over the entire main area intended for fracking, from West Lothian to Stirling and the Ochils to the Slamannan plateau, hundreds of houses were built to a similar design before the First World War and most, if not all, of these will have in their title deeds the following or similar wording: “…persons working the said coals, metals and minerals being bound to pay any damages to the said ground and to all buildings that may be erected thereon, by or through the working of said coals, metals and minerals.”

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Obviously, only the products known at that time to be possibly recovered from the ground are mentioned, but these statements could open a whole can of worms. If fracking causes subsidence, does it release insurance companies from liability? Could the very statement of this risk and liability cause premiums to rise dramatically if fracking takes place? And if the wording is held legally to cover more modern products of a form of mining, will Ineos be willing to sign a guarantee of full compensation for every one of these houses? All such can potentially lie above old mines and fracking can travel up to 4km sideways, possibly crossing them and making the ground above even more unstable. I personally would want a guarantee in writing. But then, Jim Ratcliffe need not worry — none of this can affect him in Switzerland.

As to another point made by the fracking lobby, I gain no reassurance from the claims of “robust regulation”. That supposedly existed on Piper Alpha, but a relative of mine was burned to death, to an unrecognisable state, in spite of all the risk assessments and safety procedures. Money always cuts corners.

Thank goodness the Scottish government has put people and the environment before greed.
L McGregor

ON a news bulletin this week the presenter questioned the rationale of the fracking ban given the “decline” of Scottish offshore oil resources.

What decline? Oil & Gas UK has stated that more than £290 billion of oil reserves remain to be extracted in the Scottish North Sea, while the Scottish Atlantic Margin oil reserves, off the west coast, contain the largest oilfield in north-west Europe (Clair).
William C McLaughlin