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The Scotsman conference

I spent yesterday at the Scotsman conference on unconventional oil and gas. This was very much an industry affair, with nobody on hand to put the green point of view. To my mind this was a missed opportunity, since it's rare that environmentalists appear before an audience that has the knowledge to answer back. Having said that, in the audience we did have Maria Montinaro, the Falkirk Community Councillor who has been highly visible in the campaign against Dart Energy and she was given plenty of opportunity to ask questions.

The speakers were pretty high profile, including Chris Masters, who had led the Scottish Government's expert panel on unconventional oil and gas, Gary Haywood, a high heidyin at INEOS, Ken Cronin of the Onshore Operators Group and Gordon Hughes.

The headlines have been generated by Gary Haywood, who was fairly clear that if the UK doesn't develop an indigenous shale gas industry then Grangemouth is toast. But there was much else of interest too. A number of themes were common to several of the speakers. There was dismay at the Scottish Government's moratorium, although tempered by a suggestion that SNP energy minister Fergus Ewing was not stupid. There was an expectation that things would change after the election. Everyone assumed that the speed of progress would be glacial however.

Several speakers touched on the campaign of misinformation from the greens, but there was also much talk of a "social licence to operate", a concept that seemed to be widely accepted among the panel members. IMHO, if ever there was a triumph of democracy over liberty, this is it, and a surer way to economic paralysis is hard to imagine.

The solution, most seemed to think, is public consultation. Jen Roberts from Strathclyde University said that it was not acceptable to ignore objectors. I would have liked her to set this idea in the context of the misinformation campaign from the greens and also the fact that fracking is a venerable technology. Ken Cronin's talk included a defence of UKOOG's decision to welcome the Scottish moratorium.  I'm not sure I'm entirely convinced that another expert panel or another review is going to make any difference though. He spoke about an information campaign that the group had put together and the thousands of responses it had had. I wasn't entirely convinced.

As with many of the speakers, Cronin gave the impression that diplomacy and the need to suck up to the politicians is uppermost in their minds. I was reminded of Dan Hannan's remarks about free-market capitalism being the only system ever devised where you could be successful without sucking up to people in power. Regulatory capitalism is thus clearly in the other camp. Gordon Hughes started out by saying that he didn't have to be diplomatic in this way, and I heard someone behind me mutter "Good". Gordon's talk was suitably forthright, setting out stark choices about our energy options, "Poor, cold and green" being the one favoured by the political classes. His point about putting better incentives in place for the locals affected by shale developments seemed sound to me.

I was also interested in the talk by Melissa Thompson, a solicitor from Pinsents, the conference sponsors. She seems to have carved out a nice niche for herself as advisers to unconventional operators under attack from greens. She noted that many of those involved were professional protestors who often did not know what they were protesting about. More "direct action" is apparently being planned to coincide with the Cuadrilla planning decision in Lancashire.

We watch with interest.

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Reader Comments (51)

'His point about putting better incentives in place for the locals affected by shale developments seemed sound to me.'

I think that's absolutely right. I'm in favour of fracking and consider the risks to be small, but if someone was to propose fracking within a kilometre of me why should I NOT object to that since I have nothing to gain, and would have put up with the disruption (mainly) during the drilling process and thereafter? Give me a modest amount of compensation and I'll shut up. Others might then investigate the concerns before speaking out and do likewise.

So make with the compensation. It doesn't have to be huge amounts, just enough to make people stop and think.

Feb 11, 2015 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

There's a bit more to it of course. There's no question about whether we will use gas or not, It provides a third of our energy and will continue to do so for some time to come, whatever your views. The only question is where we get the gas from. It will be supplied, at a price from somewhere, the only question is whether we use our own gas, or increase emissions and possibly costs and insecurity of supply by importing it (and exporting any pollution involved in extracting it.)
This was a lot simpler to answer with gas prices high and rising, but now wholesale oil and gas has been dropping, and is in oversupply. Good news then for the short term at least, although a situation that has been created in large part by fracking activities elsewhere.

Feb 11, 2015 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered Commenterfenbeagle

And presumably you take the same approach to coal mining, electricity, oil, gas, and water and sewage transmission both above and below ground. Do you even know what is going on 100 feet under your property or your neighbour's property, let alone 3,000 feet down?
And what do you mean you have nothing to gain? When we find some reliable way of differentiating between electricity generated by home-produced cheap shale gas and expensively imported Russian gas or eye-wateringly expensive intermittent windpower will you be happy when we decide which you get?
"Make with the compensation". War cry of the 21st century Brit! Thank you for reminding me why I got the hell out!

Feb 11, 2015 at 9:35 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Was there any talk about the cunning and evil master plan, to set fire to the coal under the North Sea, fracking just being a diversion to keep swampy and his mates occupied elsewhere?

Feb 11, 2015 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

Re local incentives; paying someone's council tax for a year doesn't seem a bad idea. Most fracking would be likely to occur in relatively poorly populated areas, making such an incentive easily viable. That's worth a grand or so to most people, which grosses up even higher. Not too bad for doing literally nothing. Just a thought.

Feb 11, 2015 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered

So government works by letting @NIMBY/Capell have a veto and then paying him a bribe ?
No, doesn't matter if its windmills or fracking or HS2 etc. people shouldnt have a veto. Sometimes even if the whole village objects the gov maybe right to impose something for the greater good.
- However it is part of democracy that you have something for the whole family of views, not just the 51% getting everything their own way. The greens have got bad recycling policies, bad renewable s policies and a mass of green policies and spending imposed over the majority yet they still want more. No, enough you greedy pigs. Its like the spoiled kid at the playgroup who wants tp play with his own toys but wont let anyone else play with their own toys.
- No to bribes : lets get back to the other topics of the conference.

Feb 11, 2015 at 10:12 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

'since it's rare that environmentalists appear before an audience that has the knowledge to answer back' for the very good reason that when is occurs they make themselves look like fools . Its wrong to think of these people has stupid because there behaviour is so often poor , you can and do get very smart people that lie very well .

Feb 11, 2015 at 10:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

It's long overdue that industry finally got off its collective backside and joined us skeptics in sounding the alarm bells. Poor, cold but not even green is actually what we face. With proper use of gas power we could increase efficiencies, which will be required because European demand for gas can only climb from this point. Yet the SNP knows full well about the inevitable increasing demand for gas - it's right there in their RPP2 document. Hence why the speakers knew this moratorium was just a knee-jerk reaction to Jim Murphy's rank stupidity in trying to make fracking an election issue.

Feb 11, 2015 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

"nobody on hand to put the green point of view"

Were they asked? My guess is yes, but they don't like unwarm(ed) audiences...

Feb 11, 2015 at 10:28 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

"She noted that many of those involved were professional protestors who often did not know what they were protesting about. "

It is a pity there isn't a webpage documenting (with photographs) those profressional protestors.

Also how are they funded - benefits?, Putin?, etc, etc

Feb 11, 2015 at 11:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

Ironically, many communities in south Wales are grateful for the financial benefit of both wind and opencast coal mining. The objectors, tend to be people who have moved or retired and not all from the other side of Clawdd Offa.

Feb 11, 2015 at 11:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterTrefor Jones

Anyone there from the press and media?

Feb 11, 2015 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered Commenterbernie1815

Mike Jackson

I think times have changed since the heyday of coal mining. Even without rent-a-green it would not be possible to develop coal mining in the current climate. There are a lot of people who are agnostic about fracking, and there is a lot of nimbyism, and these people need to be made comfortable, so if a small share of fracking revenues could be set aside to compensate them for their perceived loss of amenity, they are much more likely to be supportive, marginalising the professional protesters and privileged media greens. That seems to be how it works in the US.

Feb 11, 2015 at 11:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

Interesting stuff Bish.

As fenbeagle points out, the current glut of gas and oil are part of the equation. Ministers will be wondering if they want the hassel from greens if there's going to be an over supply. Better leave it in the ground for a rainy day. Of course that doesn't take into account the time it takes to get engineering projects started and by the time the gas starts flowing the glut may be over and prices may rocket again. In the short term I don't expect things to look rosy for UK oil and gas outfits.

JamesG, I'm not sure about the industry joining us but it is past time they reminded people the benefits of fossil fuels.

Capell is right about there being no (obvious) benefit to individual home owners to not protest against any industrialisation of their area (including windmills). NIMBY is normal. It's not like the US where landowners and small towns can get rich from mineral rights and the trickle down effect from a big, lucrative business being in the area. Whether we like it or not, we have people who want to be compensated for real or imagined problems. Rather than pay individuals I'd rather see an insurance fund set up in case of unforseen, long term problems. The money will almost certainly not be needed but it might ease people's fears over a wider area. The fund money should then loan the money to the government to reduce national debt. Win, win. Anything else done for those directly affected or local councils should be decided by the locals themselves. Knocking a few quid off council tax certainly won't do any good. Much more effective might be a return to weekly bin collections or road resurfacing. Even a cheque is better than money dropping into the blackhole of public spending.

Feb 11, 2015 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2


Yes, the Scotsman and the Mail at least.

Feb 11, 2015 at 11:26 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

So Naive ? They seemed not realise what they are up against. Thinking, that greens are sincere instead of the powerful, devious green blob that they are
"The solution, most seemed to think, is public consultation. Jen Roberts from Strathclyde University said that it was not acceptable to ignore objectors."
Context and proportion !

"Putting incentives in place"(for frack residents) : what above ?
1. Energy security for your country.
2. Jobs for your county
3. An Aberdeen style taxtake for your council instead of a poverty area one
4. The Good/bad of higher house prices
5. Opportunities for local businesses

The negatives :
6 months of scumbag protestors and scumbag media and costs of cleaning up after them..little voles suffocating in the thousands of abandoned Lush Cosmetic bottles etc.
- Bit of noise and a bit of extra traffic.
..yes I agree with @TinyCO2 concerns do need addressing with reassurance about what you could lose ..rather that presents and anyway they'll just want bigger presents next time. Corp should have accident insurance and site end of job cleanup clause.

"nobody on hand to put the green point of view"
Well perhaps the renta-mob weren' t rented that day or were on duty at their other 'homes' in Balcombe or near Blackpool. Perhaps the real rabid-anti-frack voice is smaller than the media con themselves into believing it is.

Feb 11, 2015 at 11:28 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

I think we need a questionnaire to be posted through every door in the country, something like this....

Please tick one option for the source of your gas/electricity - you will be billed for the lowest cost energy available that meets your preference. If energy meeting your preference is not available your supply may be interrupted.

[ ] No preference.
[ ] No UK fracking.
[ ] Renewable only.

Feb 11, 2015 at 11:34 AM | Unregistered Commenterjaffa

yep @Jaffa, simply connect the benefits to negative, don't allow the negatives to be isolated. This conference guys should have already known this

Feb 11, 2015 at 11:41 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

What is left of the UK would be made to look pretty stupid, if Scotland decided, independently, to press ahead with shale gas, and hence cheaper energy for households, industry and business.

Losing grants from the EU, would become irrelevent, if financial common sense outweighed short term incentives.

Unfortunately, dodgy political dogma, reliant on dubious politicised science, seems to be the path mapped out.

Feb 11, 2015 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

David S
Perhaps I was a tad harsh with Capell but I'm afraid that if there is one thing above all else that gets right up my nose about the state of the UK it's the "make with the compensation" attitude. Most especially when it's compensation for some event that hasn't happened.
TinyCO2 might have the right idea with an insurance scheme which can be called on if anyone can prove a definite personal disbenefit. But why only fracking? The principle should apply across all forms of activity where the environment is affected and to an extent already does. And agreement is already necessary with a landowner before any developer can carry out work, either by buying the land concerned, leasing it for a period, or paying some form of compensation for disturbance or loss of use.
I find it quite bizarre that an entire community can insist that a local landowner is not allowed to do as he wishes on his own land unless they get a backhander. And even more bizarre that they should have any say at all on what goes on a kilometre under the ground. Perhaps I should be looking for compensation from the air force every time one of their fighters crosses my property at a height of 1k and causes far more disruption than fracking is ever likely to.
It's past time that politicians and businesses (and I agree with JamesG) grew a pair, called out the activists for the liars they are, explained exactly what the proposals are and the benefits to the UK, and got on with it.

Feb 11, 2015 at 12:03 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

The left wing has effectively taken over the entire educational system and much of the media. Under these circumstances, it can pretty much control social responses to any technology. It doesn't matter if the technology would be of considerable value to society - if it is deemed politically unacceptable it will be opposed, and if it is acceptable it will be supported, regardless of any technological argument.

Examples of these points are Nuclear Power, which hardly exists despite its manifold advantages, and the extensive use of bicycles, which are strongly encouraged, despite the fact that they are a Victorian invention which should have been relegated to history in the same way as the horse.

Feb 11, 2015 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterdodgy geezer

roll eyes heavenwards and shake head.....

Where is the spirit of Willie Walsh ? (who launched a fair proportion of BA's fleet at Heathrow in clear defiance of CAA's wholly stupid and ill founded volcanic ash ban)

The monstrous stupidity of the SNP - Scotland in in the north=cold, gas presently predominates in their heating budget, windmills proven not to work, they're sitting on top of gas deposits, Ineos is prepared to take responsibility for exploration/production. The acknowledgement of the environmentalists as noble, moral leads in any discussion has a lot to do with it and by and large the eco-nutters still manage to spread themselves across the political spectrum.... Some confrontation would clear the air - just maybe that is why nobody from that church turned up to speak....

Really - the gloves have to come off. The spineless PR agency led corporate burblings seem designed to spin out the inevitable - enriching the PR crew and as we can see the lawyers.....

Nexen (Canadian / Chinese) are right this moment producing CBM gas from underneath Keele Uni's science park..... what is it with our domestic corporates and politicians that produces so much hand wringing and truly inept maneuvering ?

Feb 11, 2015 at 12:26 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Headline scrolling under the BBC news this morning and appearing on the BBC website ...

Cheaper oil will not boost global growth, says Moody's

The article says something different ...

The ratings agency said any boost from cheaper oil would be offset by the eurozone's economic woes as well as slowdowns in China, Japan and Russia.
[ ... ]
Marie Diron, the author of the report, said: "Lower oil prices should, in principle, give a significant boost to global growth.

"However, a range of factors will offset the windfall income gains from cheaper energy.

So, cheap oil will boost global growth but not enough to overcome other problems arguably caused by incompetent governments.

Feb 11, 2015 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpeed

Speed, windfall gains from cheaper energy, will offset windfail losses.

Windfail losses do not exist in Red/Green economics. Perhaps they think they can borrow wind, and get future generations to pay it back.

Feb 11, 2015 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

"There was dismay at the Scottish Government's moratorium, although tempered by a suggestion that SNP energy minister Fergus Ewing was not stupid. There was an expectation that things would change after the election."

You mean like using the wealth created from fraccing to 'banish austerity':

We’d prop up a minority Labour government, says Nicola Sturgeon
"Nicola Sturgeon today launched a daring move to woo Labour voters by indicating that she would be prepared to prop up a minority Miliband government – but only if it dropped its austerity policies."

Or does the wealth have to come from English taxpayers?

Feb 11, 2015 at 1:05 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

What sort of questions did Ms. Montinaro pose?

Feb 11, 2015 at 1:08 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW


Surely then a more accurate headline would have been "Cheaper oil slows economic downturn"?

Ok, I guess technically the BBC a headline is "right" BUT technically it's not correct either.


Feb 11, 2015 at 1:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Don't want to go off track too much but ever since I came across so called planning gain, where developers pay for sometimes tenuously related projects or improvements as part of the price for permission, it has seemed to me a murky area. Yes, much of it can be justified, but it is very difficult if not impossible to see where it crosses over into outright bribery. But I don't think one can be too dogmatic about it.

Feb 11, 2015 at 1:28 PM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

Bish: You said: "...if ever there was a triumph of democracy over liberty, this is it..."

I don't see it that way: it is more a triumph of Agitprop over liberty. I'm not sure that 'democracy' comes into it; I certainly don't recall being invited to vote for or agin coal mining or North sea Oil.

I also wonder, did the conference accept that 'conventional' gas and oil exploration did not need to have a "social licence to operate"?

Feb 11, 2015 at 1:34 PM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

Planning gain is an extremely murky area, believe me.
But the logic of it is seductive. If you want to build 1,000 new houses then you (or to be more precise the people who buy the houses) can pay for the road upgrade that will be needed and the new primary school because why should we lumber the rest of the community with these costs when without your development these things wouldn't be needed.
The answer, of course, is that 1,000 new houses are going to bring in another £1m (at least!) in Council Tax every year and if your local council needs another £1m to service another 1,000 houses then it's not doing its job properly.
Remember that the developer will be expected as part of the planning conditions to do essential upgrades to services in and out as well as installing the roads and street lighting so the immediate additional cost to the council is a bit more refuse collection and a marginal increase in the 'leccy bills.
But if you're desperate for a new swimming pool or a new artificial pitch or the skateboard park is starting to look a bit worn and you've promised to freeze Council Tax for a couple of years (for whatever reason) then ...

Feb 11, 2015 at 1:46 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

" capitalism being the only system ever devised where you could be successful without sucking up to people in power".
Surely it is worth remembering that the people in power are democratically elected and so accountable to the people.

Free-market capitalism being just another system devised to take power away from the people.

If you aren't accountable to the democratically elected you must have the power yourself. This would be called a plutocracy.
Regulations are good.

Feb 11, 2015 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterMCourtney

Feb 11, 2015 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterMCourtney

Is it your stance then that the state can run business better than business itself?

Just because the government is elected once every 5 years does not mean they make better decisions from the point of view of the electorate. There is no accountability in that 5 years. There is no power of recall. There is no binding commitment to the manifesto. There is real reluctance to do real public engagements with referenda.

Feb 11, 2015 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterClovis Marcus

Ah yes Moodys - one of the ratings agencies that acted as cheerleaders for the US toxic debt that caused everyone's financial troubles in the first place. Hmmm I wonder if their predictive power that failed to predict the financial slump and the current drop in oil prices are somehow trustworthy now?

Feb 11, 2015 at 2:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Clovis Marcus, it is a leap to go from regulation to state ownership.

The only restraint the majority can exert over capital is via the Government.

That our democracy is lacking in engagement is true.
That parties have no democratic oversight by the electorate at all is false (ask a LibDem about their tuition fee oath breaking).

Unrestrained power by anyone over everyone else is a bad thing.
And that is what unregulated capital would have.

This is not a left-wing site but I am not trolling by putting my views here. I am trying to challenge preconceptions so as they can be judged - this is good for all. The opposition to any regulation of private companies, that was implied, was so extreme that... I'm sure it wouldn't have been expressed that way if the issue had been thought about more deeply.

Feb 11, 2015 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterMCourtney

Well I was fairly sure that whatever Sturgeon said, it wasn't "We’d prop up a minority Labour government".

So I looked for the real quote:
“We’d judge it on what we thought would give Scotland the best influence and the strongest voice. Something short of a coalition might be a better option – issue-by-issue support.”

How unusual for the Tory rags to misrepresent folk!

Feb 11, 2015 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Mike Fowle, Mike Jackson is quite correct about Planning Gain. Used sensibly, it is a simple and obvious way for a developer to pay towards an area's enhancement.

It has fierce critics, the developers who have to pay, and those who don't get what they want.

It is subject to abuse, mainly from those who seek to gain, financially.

Feb 11, 2015 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Mailman wrote, "Ok, I guess technically the BBC a headline is "right" BUT technically it's not correct either."

A sin -- not of commission but of omission.

Feb 11, 2015 at 3:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpeed

I quite agree with Mike J (as I usually do!), but it does seem to me not clear cut. In an ideal world, a development would stand or fall on its intrinsic merits. But I accept that's probably naïve. It just seems that incredibly fine distinctions have to be drawn. Cynically I sometimes wonder as there is both so much aggro in planning as well as possible kickbacks that the incentive for corruption might be well nigh irresistible.

Feb 11, 2015 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

"...ask a LibDem about their tuition fee oath breaking"

Well as a pre-Clegg LibDem I know that no oath or promise was broken because they didn't actually win the election. That easy-to-grasp fact didn't stop the party that introduced tuition fees in the first place and the party that increased them by an unholy amount from mendacious smearing. That the lie has been swallowed wholesale and repeated by sheeple (some of whom comment here) is merely further proof that our education system is failing to get people to engage their brains.

As for the students; if it really was top of their agenda then they should have voted for the Libdems in droves rather than for the Labour party. If you don't vote for a policy then don't be so surprised if you don't get it! Duh!

If the Libdems had won then there would be no tuition fees now - as in Scotland. Now it transpires that the student loan system is totally broken anyway (as Libdems had predicted btw) so all these excessive fees that Universities wanted have ended up being funded by taxpayers anyway; now underwriting hundreds of valueless courses in useless enviro-blob departments filled with loony lefties.

Feb 11, 2015 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Mike Jackson,

Disappointingly, I think you've missed the point of my post (echoing the sentiments of the Bish and Prof Gordon Hughes) completely. And Stewgreen should note I'm no NIMBY.

It's quite clear that protest-against-fracking is the nothing-to-lose-everything -to-gain option for Joe Public. We can bleat about the economic benefits to the UK, the reduction of CO2 (which we both understand) but, especially for those living in a non-mains gas connected area (which I suspect applies to many close to rural fracking sites) just what on earth stops them from opting for the obvious (to them) 'no loss' rather than the 'all that hassle, noise and traffic' option?

A bit of compensation (think of it as a bribe to go and do some thinking) would help, perhaps.

We shouldn't do bribes? Stuff the moral high-ground; the other side bribe to get their windmills erected, why not for a few fracking heads?

Feb 11, 2015 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

Feb 11, 2015 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterMCourtney

I didn't have state ownership in mind. Commercial regulation is just another way of the state taking away the power of business to make it's own decisions. My argument is that business is better placed to take those decisions than government, some of whom have trouble telling the difference between national debt and PSBR.

I have no reason the think the state is any more benevolent than commerce. Commerce at least can lose customers and growth is dependent on keeping people happy to some degree. The state's power however is derived from statute. It can grow pretty well at will.

Anyway, we have strayed well of topic so if you want to reply please do. I won't take my arguments any further ;)

Feb 11, 2015 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterclovis marcus

mike fowle, "picture postcard village" scenes never seem to include a Tesco superstore. For Tesco, this just confirmed how stupid local people, and planners were.

The UK planning system is good, but not perfect, which is why "planning consultants" exist.

Feb 11, 2015 at 4:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

JamesG: oath or promise was broken because [LibDems] didn't actually win the election
And that's the point, James, there truly was absolutely no chance on God's green Earth that Clegg would have won the election and formed a government - so he was free to make as many (signed) pledges as he wanted to. And then break them with impunity, claiming that it was the Coalition wot dunnit.

Sorry, James, that won't wash.

Feb 11, 2015 at 5:01 PM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

Capell, I am not a planner.......

Pushing through developments for the "greater good" has helped shape planning law and the scenery, from development of canals, railways, electricity pylons and more recently mobile phone masts.

Many were hoping for a similar treatment for wind turbines, and the opposite for fracking.

Elected councillors have dug their heels in over wind turbines, and they do not currently get a free pass.

Various parts of the UK have dug their heels in over fracking, to make it clear that submitting a planning application would be a waste of money.

This is what some of the jock-eying is all about north of the border, and why the green luvvies are so mobile and vocal, in trying to preserve rural tranquility.

Feb 11, 2015 at 5:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Trouble is developments aren't allowed to stand or fall on their merits.
I could write a book on my experiences (along with a highly-qualified gentleman who ran a right-of-centre think tank in Scotland) arguing about Regional Structure Plans and District Local Plans with local councils over a period of about 17 years.
The last time I looked at a local community website the 3,000 houses (increasing the size of the town they were to be grafted onto by around 35-40%!) demanded by the 2005 Plans had still not been started and increasingly look as if they never will be.
The "developer contributions"/"planning gains"/"sweeteners" have all been agreed, meanwhile the local demographic means that one of the two local secondary schools is now scheduled for closure, etc., etc.
The whole strategic planning system appears to be in a total shambles and in the process no houses are getting built and as someone pointed out somewhere just the other day he could build you a three-bed house for £50K (I think he's being a bit optimistic but I take his point) and the other £300K it will cost you is the extortionate price of building land and the planning gains.
I bought a 3-bed house on 1000 sq m in France for £20K less than I got for a 2-bed Wimpey semi.
Sorry, we've gone a bit O/T here but the point is that the housing market is distorted by planning gain, the electricity generating market is distorted by "bribes" the other way, and we are now looking at further developer contributions in order to frack which will screw up the gas market as well.
It never occurs to anyone that the bottom line is that it's the poor bloody infantry that pays the bill at the end of the day, no matter how you dress it up. Can I start a new slogan "Liberty=Transparency"?

Feb 11, 2015 at 5:21 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

So the Scottish now have landed the fracking industry with a "social licence to operate".
I wonder if they might apply it to all Scottish industry retrospectively.... e.g. to the whiskey industry.

Feb 11, 2015 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered Commentertom0mason

Andrew, I'd be interested to hear your views about the difference between the "unconventional sources" (US) debate and that of climate. My view is that the US debate is pretty well matched with good funding on the US side (even enough for solicitors). In contrast, the climate debate was one that was almost totally one-sided with the big money all on one side.

I'd also be interested to know what the climate debate would have been like if there had been money on the sceptic side. Would it even have lasted as long as Climategate let alone another five years?

Or perhaps it's the other way around? Because US is driven by money, they've got less public support than us sceptics?

Feb 11, 2015 at 7:57 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Harry P

Tortured logic indeed! What's difficult about this? You have a manifesto pledge and if you win you can implement it. If you don't you can't! Btw you have a short memory; it was a 3 horse race pollwise after the first debate so either the polls were all rubbish or the public changed their minds at the last minute, decided they didn't want (costed) free education after all, and went back to the faithful status quo that they already knew didn't implement any promises. Well fair enough - if you don't want it then don't vote for it - but don't pretend later that it was someone else to blame!

So while Labour should have been lambasted for introducing the fees in the first place and Tories should have had the same for making a bad situation much worse. Both found it very convenient to blame the only party with clean hands on this issue and the sheeple like you bought the BS without even sniffing it!

Feb 11, 2015 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

JamesG: Sorry, not buying it. There's no 'tortured logic' involved at all. To quote what the popularity polls in deference to the actual polls is, forgive me, a little disingenuous.
I continue to believe that if Clegg had any chance of being PM - in his own and Libdem's right - he would not have been so free with his promises. What he was doing was playing to the gallery in the hope of getting enough votes to put him and the LibDems in coalition. As it happens, in May this year, he'll be hard-pressed to remain in Sheffield, let alone coalition.

And, as the Willis would say, ymmv. No offence.

Feb 11, 2015 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

JamesG, I used the phrase oath breaker and not manifesto-commitment-renogotiator because it was a Pledge.

The argument that they didn't win will wash for every other commitment. Some they could have got get but others they couldn't - negotiation.

But they had made an extra Pledge on tuition fees. That couldn't be worth less than the rest of the collection of policies.
It had to be a cow that couldn't be sold for all the beans in Pantoland.
Yet they broke their oath.
And they butchered the cow for a couple of beans they chose to gobble rather than nurture and plant.

The electorate do respond to the actions and integrity of politicians. Wait and see.

Feb 11, 2015 at 11:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterMCourtney

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