The Scottish government has announced a ban on fracking, in the face of “overwhelming” public opposition to the controversial gas extraction technique.
Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said an immediate ban would be enacted by using planning powers to extend the current moratorium “indefinitely”, removing the need for legislation.
Mr Wheelhouse told MSPs: “Let me be clear that the action is sufficient to effectively ban the development of unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland.
“The decision that I am announcing today means that fracking cannot, and will not take place in Scotland.”
The minister said a public consultation on the issue received more than 60,000 responses, an “overwhelming” 99 per cent of which were opposed to fracking.
Opponents raised concerns over the impact on health and the environment, while supporters focused on the economic benefits and said regulation could mitigate any adverse effects.
Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting water at high pressure into shale formations, fracturing the rock and allowing natural gas to flow out.
The government will seek Holyrood’s endorsement for the ban by extending the moratorium in place since January 2015, during a debate and vote following recess.
Conservative MSP Dean Lockhart said the decision meant Scotland’s economy was being “left behind”, and that reports had shown fracking could bring up to £4.6bn in additional GVA and thousands of jobs.
He said: “This much-needed economic boost and these jobs will now be created outside of Scotland, thanks to the SNP.”
Labour’s environment spokesperson Claudia Beamish, and Green MSP Mark Ruskell, both called on the government to commit to a full legal ban, with Ms Beamish saying the proposal did not go “far enough”.
The Liberal Democrats welcomed the government’s announcement, but criticised the time taken to reach a decision.
Environmental charities hailed the ban, while industry bodies said Scotland would miss out on an economic boost and thousands of jobs.
Friends of the Earth Scotland head of campaigns Mary Church said: “This is a huge win for the anti-fracking movement, particularly for those on the frontline of this dirty industry here in Scotland, who have been working for a ban these last six years.”
She said the ban would “avoid potentially devastating impacts to people’s health, the climate and our natural environment”.
Dr Sam Gardner, acting director of WWF Scotland, added: “It’s excellent news the Scottish government has listened to the thousands of people, campaigners, and politicians across the country who have been calling for a permanent ban to fracking.
“The climate science is clear. The vast majority of fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground.”
Tom Pickering, operations director of Ineos Shale, which processes shale gas shi-ped from overseas to Grangemouth in Scotland, warned the country will miss out on economic and employment benefits, including an estimated 3,100 jobs.
Gary Smith, the GMB union’s Scotland secretary, accused the Scottish government of being “dishonest and hypercritical”, adding: “Scotland is importing a huge amount of shale gas from Trump’s America.
“If the government wants to be consistent, it will now ban shale gas imports, threatening a huge number of job losses.”