SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has raised concerns about proposed Coalbed Methane (CBM) extractiona process similar to fracking, on land being sold by the Duke of Buccleuch.

Mouldyhills Farm in Canonbie, Dumfriesshire is being marketed as a lucrative opportunity because of its CBM potential – despite the Scottish Government refusing to give licenses for fracking.
Selling agents Savills have advertised the vacant farm for £1.8m, boasting:
“With key industry partners, the owners have been working to realise coalbed methane opportunities across Mouldyhills Farm which could, in the future, offer a significant income subject to obtaining the relevant consents.”
Ms McAlpine and local residents previously campaigned against Buccleuch’s plans for CBM extraction at Canonbie, an historic village on the banks of the River Esk.  
Commenting on the sale, Ms McAlpine said:

“CBM frequently results in fracking and has been associated with gas leaks and water poisoning elsewhere in the world. Buccleuch Estates caused outrage in Canonbie several years ago when they tried to do this through the back door via the local planning department.  Fortunately, a brilliant campaign by the residents stopped them.

“It beggars belief that Buccleuch are still pushing CBM to future owners of the site.  It is deeply irresponsible as well as misleading; the Scottish Government has said no planning licenses will be issued.  The Duke should be ashamed of trying to profit from the land by advertising its destruction.”


The sale of Mouldyhills farm is part of the larger disposal of what is known as the Evertown Portfolio.  This 9,000-acre area, made up of several farms, is being sold in a larger restructuring of Buccleuch Estates.  

Local MSP Joan McAlpine has launched a separate campaign against the sale of Cleuchfoot, another lot in the Evertown Portfolio, which is currently occupied by tenant farmers Alison and David Telfer –  who have lived and worked it for 20 years.  The Telfer’s hill ground is being marketed as having “planting potential” for forestry grants.  These prospective grants are more profitable than the Telfer’s tenancy and as such, their sheep are due to be removed this month in preparation for the sale.  Ms McAlpine has been engaging with Buccleuch Estates on this matter but the MSP has also objected to CBM proposals at Mouldyhills.   
Coalbed methane is a natural gas trapped in coal seams underground. Extraction requires drilling into the seam and pumping large amounts of water out to lower the pressure.  Such seams are often later fracked. This involves injecting water, sand, and chemicals at very high pressures underground and can cause minor earth tremors.

CBM extraction elsewhere in the world has been linked to methane migration, contamination of the water supply, air pollution, land subsidence, noise pollution, crop death, increased carbon emissions, depletion of the water table and general industrialisation of rural communities
Widespread public opposition to fracking was indicated by a 2017 Scottish Government consultation.   
Ms McAlpine said the proposal to extract CBM underlined the need for Buccleuch to formally engage the local communities affected by the sale of the Evertown Portfolio.
The MSP said:

“Residents campaigned successfully against the Duke’s CBM plans in the past.  If Buccleuch had carried out proper community engagement on this land sale, then he would have found the same criticism levelled at these proposals for a dirty, environmentally damaging type of gas extraction. Marketing it as an “opportunity” is both sneaky and greedy”

The Scottish Land Commission has already told Buccleuch that under Scottish Government guidance necessitated by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, major changes in land use require formal engagement with the local community.  Formal methods of community engagement include: published consultations, holding local meetings, holding site visits, carrying out workshops and community collaboration to co-design the project.

On Buccleuch
Mouldyhills Farm
The Evertown Portfolio
‘Sturgeon rebukes Duke of Buccleuch in tenancy row over forestry plantations’
‘Nicola Sturgeon voices ‘concern’ over Duke of Buccleuch’s land sell-off’
‘Buccleuch Estates land sale row could lead to breaking of fresh ground’

‘Buccleuch Estate accused of bullying and intimidation by tenants’

Buccleuch Estates:  Energy
  • No mention of CBM extraction.
Coalbed Methane
Coalbed Methane
Scotland Fracking
‘Ineos loses fracking court case against Scottish Government’
Unconventional Oil and Gas Consultation: an analysis of responses
On Canonbie
‘Joan McAlpine: Would the Duke of Buccleuch be so keen on fracking at his stately pile?’
‘Canonbie residents “appalled” at Duke of Buccleuch’s tax haven land’
‘Canonbie – We Weren’t Warned About Huge Coal-Bed-Methane Development on Our Doorstep’