Friday, 22 January 2016

Statutory Instruments, Fracking and Beyond!

Earlier this week the Independent produced an article highlighting the real and sudden increases in the Governments use of Statutory Instruments in order to push through legislation quickly, bypassing the democratic process of the House of Commons.

Introduced in the 1940’s Statutory Instruments were introduced to free up members of the House’s time by allowing common procedural changes to laws to be passed without due process and debate in the Parliament.

Throughout the years the use of this instrument has generally plateaued at around 1,100 per year. Only in recent times has this sky rocketed to a staggering 3000,

This upsurge, occurring mainly after the Conservatives returned to government in 2010 has seen a worryingly altering agenda from rudimentary law changes to now becoming a means to push through a radical right wing agenda by this Conservative Government.

As noted in the Independent article;

“Since the 2015 election the SIs that have been introduced by the Government include changes to the electoral register that could result in more than a million people being denied the chance to vote, allow fracking under national parks and heritage sites and withdraw winter fuel payments from British pensioners living abroad.

Most famously, George Osborne unsuccessfully tried to use an SI to force through more than £4bn-worth of tax credit cuts without a debate on the floor of the House of Commons.”

All of this is concerning, indeed for a citizen of the UK this shows a direct disregard for the democratic principles that the British Government and media has long purported. Worse still as a citizen of a nation that once again rejected only to again have a Conservative Government, the news that they are usurping an legal opposition is particularly hard to swallow.

As someone who for the last 18 months has researched an alternative vision for Scotland’s energy future I am saddened and angry that a government without a mandate in Scotland but with reserved powers over energy could put our children’s future at risk by allowing fracking to occur not only through the rest of the United Kingdom, but through the very facilities that are preserved to protect wildlife, plantation and respite from an ever increasing urbanised world.

Make no mistake, fracking is not an necessary evil nor is it worthwhile at a time when we have a building stockpile of oil and gas reserves due to the deliberate price reduction of Saudi Arabia to starve out the now ‘fracking daft’ United States, their so called partners in the Middle East.

Studies show the huge risks involved in fracking, the dangers regarding water contamination and chemical manipulation of local soil. There is no need for this in the UK, much less any need for it in a nation like Scotland which without oil, coal, gas and nuclear fossil fuels, would still have 25% of Europe’s renewable energy capabilities. That is 25% with a population of 5 million compared to a European population of 742+ million.

In spite of this, this Conservative Government continue to kowtow to their friends in big business, those who continue to make a buck out of the natural, manufactured and human resources we have in this land until all is bled dry. To say it does not shock me from Cameron, Gideon and their ilk is an understatement.

Yet I have to confess to becoming more and more concerned by the refusal of the SNP and Scottish Government to ban fracking here in Scotland. Before their autumn conference I expressed concerns regarding the approval of Ineos stalls at their event. Now it seems worse has occurred.

It has come to light (Via Commonspace and National columnist Michael Gray) that 20+ branches of the SNP had produced motions that would call for a complete ban on fracking in Scotland. Unfortunately those in charge of the agenda for the SNP spring conference have chosen to ignore this and strike it from the conference. Despite some claims of SNP voters that the UK government would veto any outright legislation by the Scot Gov, it is tantamount to the first step of UK break-up if the UK Government reversed a decision by the Scottish Government to not contaminate Scotland’s land and water. Which begs the question... Why if independence is what the SNP strive for, do they not allow those self evident chain of events to take place?

The Ineos stall, Fergus Ewing remaining as energy minister and now the removal of real debate in their own conference. Make no mistake something is rotten, and for now it is not the chemical reactions in our soil. The SNP has had countless opportunities to stand against fracking, it is clear that the majority of members want this to happen, as do the majority of Scots (67% in a recent poll). The question must be asked... What is stopping them?

The Scottish Socialist Party unanimously voted in October 2014 against fracking at our conference, our party believes in a safe transition from carbon fuels to renewables which does not expend jobs or communities. In the next week I will outline my vision for Scotland’s Energy Future in Scotland’s Hands. A policy that doesn’t rely on new age drilling but a safe transition from fossil fuel to renewable, one which keeps the lights on, eradicates fuel poverty and creates new, greener jobs and manufacturing.

I just hope that the SNP see sense, that agreeing with the Tories, like most times... Will do them no good at all.

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