Speaking ahead of Monday’s Infrastructure Bill debate in the House of Commons – in which SNP MPs will seek to block UK Government plans to allow fracking companies to drill under land without the consent of the owners – SNP Energy Spokesperson Mike Weir MP said:
“We are committed to opposing the clauses in the Infrastructure Bill which would introduce a right for those companies involved in fracking to carry out operations under properties without the permission of the landowner. We consider this to be unacceptable and removes property holders rights to hold to object to such operations, limited though they may be at present.”
“The Scottish Parliament has legislative control over planning and environmental measures but it is unclear as to how these powers interact with the powers retained by the UK government to grant Licences under the Petroleum Act and associated rights on holders of such licences under the Mines Act 1966.
“I have raised these issues with Ministers in two previous debates but have been unable to get any answer. I suspect the real answer is that these new clauses were introduced in a hurry in order to deal with a specific issue with English law of Trespass.
“No account was taken as to the situation in Scotland. The law of property in Scotland is a devolved matter yet these clauses cut across property rights of landowners and no account has been taken of this, nor has any attempt been made to involve the Scottish Parliament. This is a direct contravention of the Sewell Convention. This is a perfect illustration why all powers over fracking, both licensing and planning, should be transferred to the Scottish Parliament.”
“The Smith Commission recognised this but, with the best will in the world, even if the Smith Commission proposals are speedily enacted by whomsoever forms the next Westminster Government it is likely to be at least a year until such powers are transferred. A great deal of irreparable damage could be done in the meantime.
“The UK government should accept that this is a matter that should rest with the Scottish Parliament and, at the very least, remove Scotland from the ambit of these clauses .They should seek immediately to transfer the power of licensing to the Scottish Parliament.”