Scotland has imposed a moratorium on shale gas planning permits two days after a UK-wide ban was rejected by MPs in Westminster.
The Scottish Parliament will conduct an public consultation and an investigation into the impact of shale gas extraction – known as fracking – on public health before allowing any new permits to be issued.
The announcement was made by Scottish Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing who represents the pro-EU Scottish National Party. The Labour party also back a ban on shale gas without adequate safeguards, calling the UK government’s pursuit of shale “fanatical”.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said this week he will go “all out for shale” saying it would help provide energy security, keep prices down and help tackle climate change.
Scotland is estimated to have around 80 trillion cubic metres of shale gas resources, enough to cover all of Britain’s gas needs for more than 30 years.
The European Commission’s Energy Roadmap 2050 identifies gas as a “critical” fuel in and attempt to reduce emissions, although the exploitation of shale gas is heavily regulated by the EU.
Conservative MEP, Ian Duncan has reacted angrily to the announcement saying the Scottish government is playing politics with Scottish jobs.
“The Scottish Government is already in possession of a significant body of evidence regarding the safety and success of the extraction methods,” said Duncan.
“At a time when North Sea jobs are under such intense pressure, it seems perverse that the Scottish Government is willing to ignore the opportunities represented by unconventional gas and oil,” he added.
Friends of the Earth Scotland said the ban was “testament to the perseverance of people and communities around the country who have tirelessly fought this industry in recent years.”
“Going after new fossil fuels is the last thing we need in the context of the latest, urgent warnings from climate science, and is not a responsible action for a country trying to meet its targets,” their statement concluded.
Shale gas is natural gas that is found trapped under fine grained rock known as shale.
Europe has estimated shale gas reserves of 639 trillion cubic feet.
However its exploration has proved controversial. Opponents say the extraction method for shale gas, known as fracking, can cause dangerous chemicals to leak into local water supplies and undermine the structural integrity of the local area leading to subsidence.