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South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has today condemned UK Government plans to remove the right of householders to object to fracking taking place beneath their homes – and highlighted the need for a public debate on the issue, rather than a behind closed doors agreement at Westminster.


Despite 99 per cent of respondents to the UK Government consultation objecting to the plans, it has been announced that companies will be allowed to drill below people’s land without first negotiating a right of access – removing the right to object which currently exists.


The Scottish Government has already objected to the proposals, instead calling for the powers over unconventional oil and gas to be transferred to the Scottish Parliament and pointing out whatever the rights and wrongs of the proposal it needs to be given proper consideration and be subject to public debate in Scotland, to allow the issue to be taken forward in a cautious, considered and evidence-based fashion.


Last year Ms McAlpine opposed plans by Buccleuch Estates to give multi-national mining company Dart Energy permission to drill for ­unconventional gas in the scenic village of Canonbie – and demanded a review into Dumfries and Galloway Council’s decision to grant planning permission for the development.


Evidence has shown that the extraction of shale gas and oil often involves hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” – a process which can cause contamination of the water supply and earth tremors.


Commenting, SNP MSP Ms McAlpine said:


“Westminster’s gung-ho approach to fracking is the exact opposite of what is needed – and people across the country will be concerned that the Westminster establishment is taking decisions like this with seemingly little regard for the wishes of local people.


“The UK Government has completely failed to listen to the concerns people have regarding these plans – 99 per cent of respondents to their own consultation objected to them.  


“Whatever your view on unconventional oil and gas extraction – and there are pros and cons –  it makes no sense whatsoever to ride roughshod over public opinion by removing householders rights without adequate debate. In an area of energy policy where people have concerns, it does not engender public confidence that the UK Government has approached the issue in this way.


“This issue is far too significant to be simply nodded through as part of a behind closed doors agreement between the Tories and Lib Dems – people in Scotland deserve the chance to debate plans which rob them of their existing rights, without even the right to individual compensation in return.


“These are powers which should be transferred to the Scottish Parliament – to allow the matter to be taken forward in a cautious, considered and evidence based fashion, rather than in the gung-ho manner favoured by the UK Government in their dash for gas.”


She added:


“The lessons learned from developments at Canonbie are clear.  Councillors and local residents were completely by-passed in the decision making process to grant permission to drill.


“The views of local communities should be of the utmost importance in coming to a decision about whether exploration for unconventional gas is safe and desirable – Westminster’s plans fly in the face of that.


“The debacle at Canonbie underlines the importance of protecting local resident’s rights to be informed of plans to drill and given the opportunity to object to such proposals.”