ANYONE with an interest in our environment must be concerned by the recent decision to allow fracking to take place in North Yorkshire. This brings the issue back into public focus as other communities will no doubt look on and wonder if they will be next.

Last Monday, councillors in North Yorkshire County Council voted to allow fracking near the village of Kirby Misperton. It is the first planning approval for fracking since 2011. Despite large numbers of objections – the council received 4,375 letters against allowing fracking compared to 36 letters in support – the Tory-dominated planning committee voted by seven votes to four to allow the application for fracking to go ahead.

This is also despite objections from the local district council – Ryedale – which was consulted on the application and objected to it, but the final decision was with the county council, which overruled the concerns of local people and the district councillors. Local anti-fracking campaigners have vowed to fight on and are considering a legal challenge to the planning decision.

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There is a fear that the decision in North Yorkshire could open the floodgates to fracking applications all across the country, including pressure being applied in Scotland.

Currently, the SNP Scottish Government has a moratorium in place and has stated that no fracking will take place in Scotland unless it can be proven beyond any doubt that there is no risk to health, communities or the environment. The SNP are deeply sceptical about unconventional coal gasification and have put in place a very thorough research process and plans for a public consultation so any future decision on fracking is based on both evidence and public opinion.

This research will look at what has happened across the world where fracking has been taking place. Although supporters of fracking – such as the UK Tory government – will claim the practice is safe and will boost the economy, opponents can cite environmental and health concerns from Australia and the US.

Those of us who are opposed to fracking – in which chemical-filled liquid is pumped deep underground at high pressure to fracture rock and release gas – are worried that it can cause problems including water contamination and earthquakes, as well as noise and traffic pollution.

One of the most common examples, which can be found with a quick online search, is the problem of the released gas getting into the water supply.

Once your water supply is contaminated there is no way back. How would that affect not just consumers but also key industries, such as distilleries, which rely on clean, fresh water for their whisky?

There is also evidence from the US that fracking may be the cause of earthquakes. There are numerous reports of increased earthquake activity around the sites where it has taken place. In the UK, new fracking licences have been stalled since 2011, after drilling tests on the Fylde coast in Lancashire were found to have been the probable cause of minor earthquakes in the area.

Many anti-fracking campaign groups have also stated that fracking is another form of using fossil fuels, and therefore not compatible with efforts to tackle climate change.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of Friends of the Earth, recently said that “in 2016, we should not be building new oil and gas structures, we should be moving away from oil and gas as fast as possible.”

Although the moratorium is currently in place in Scotland, we are still part of the UK, which is controlled by a Tory government who have already declared their support for fracking.

The Prime Minister stated in 2014 that his government was “going all out for shale” and UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said after the General Election that she would “deliver shale”. The Tory government went as far as saying they would intervene in planning applications following industry frustration over councils not moving quickly enough. There is also support from the Tories in Scotland for fracking, with MSP Murdo Fraser recently tweeting his approval of the North Yorkshire decision.

Don’t be too surprised if Scotland’s MSPs and Parliament are treated with the same disdain as Ryedale’s councillors and local residents, when the county council simply ignored their concerns and backed the fracking plans.

We had the chance in 2014 to make sure that all decisions affecting Scotland would be taken here. Unfortunately we threw that away, and are still in the position that Westminster can overrule the Scottish Parliament on any issue it wishes.

The publication of the Scottish Government’s inquiries into the health and environmental risks will be a key factor on this issue. Hopefully it will highlight the dangers of fracking and will lead to a permanent ban being put in place. However, don’t be too surprised if the Tories, under significant pressure from their supporters in the energy industry, try to use the North Yorkshire decision as an excuse to impose fracking on Scotland.