Fife Council has outlined its strongest opposition to fracking in the region yet – despite warnings the stance of some councillors could lead to serious problems further down the line.
The local authority has voted 56-3 to formally stress its resistance to all forms of fracking and any unconventional gas extraction (UGE) in the region, sending out a clear signal to others that Fife will be a frack-free zone.
However, The Courier understands that there is unease at a senior level at how the decision was reached after several councillors chose to ignore advice given to them prior to the debate on the issue.
Nothing prevents the council from taking a policy decision on the matter as a corporate body but, with the prospect of planning applications for fracking or UGE on Fife soil likely after the Scottish Government’s current moratorium on the practice ends, councillors were told that they should not say anything that indicates they have a closed mind to the consideration of such applications at future committees or council meetings.
And with that in mind, chief executive Steve Grimmond said members should “consider therefore whether they wish to preface their remarks in the debate with a statement to the effect that they recognise that any applications that come to the council as planning or other regulatory authority would have to be treated on their own merits”.
Thirty-two of the 59 councillors who voted in a roll call vote specifically decided not to preface their remarks, and could potentially mean their hands may be tied if and when any future planning consent is sought.
A total of 24 councillors did preface their remarks, while only the council’s three-strong Tory group voted against the Labour-led motion.
Councillor Altany Craik, who proposed the motion, was steadfast in his approach – and urged others to do likewise.
“A ban is what is needed and it’s time for the government to be bold and not timid, in my view,” he stressed.
“Words during the election campaign need to be backed up by action and this motion is our commitment to the communities of Fife, communities that we all represent, and communities that will need protection from an industry that has a terrible record and a trail of litigation running behind it, following in its wake.
“No ifs, no prevarication, not looking around saying “maybes aye, maybes no”.
“This motion does exactly what it says on the tin – I’m against fracking and I’m prepared to forgo some of the benefits of being on the planning committee to have that position as clear as I can make it.
“If others feel they want to be involved in planning decisions on that, that’s entirely up to them.
“But to me this is clear and it’s unequivocal.”
Fellow Labour councillor Tom Adams seconded the motion, adding: “It is my belief that Fife will not benefit one iota – be it from jobs or the retention of existing jobs directly involved in that industry.
“Even building the rigs and the infrastructure that comes with it, none of it will be built in Fife.
“The only people that would benefit from fracking would be the multi-national companies who own the licences and stockbrokers in the city of London.”
However, while stressing he was “very clear” in his mind about how he felt about the technology, SNP councillor Neale Hanvey said the issue called the legal competency of the council into question.
And he warned: “If in the very unfortunate circumstance that fracking was to be taken to a decision, who makes the decision when none of the councillors are able or competent to make that decision?
“Where would that go and would that decision then rest with people who didn’t represent the area?”