The Scottish Government has taken the highly admirable approach of commissioning independent research and consulting extensively with the public on the risks, costs and benefits of fracking to the Scottish environment, economy, and society.

The results of this work have shown, very clearly, that those costs and risks far outweigh the benefits, which are largely economic and, given the urgent need to manage the decline of the fossil fuel industry, also short term. If the Scottish Government is to meet its target of reducing national emissions of greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050, it will need to achieve a significant reduction in the use of all fossil fuels over the next decade, so it is absolutely right to conclude that allowing unconventional extraction is a major step in the wrong direction, and to use its devolved responsibilities for planning to legislate against the development of fracking sites.

READ MORE: Petrochemical firm Ineos in legal bid to challenge fracking ban

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Whether or not fracking can be managed safely or not, and the jury is very much still out on this, is actually a lesser issue. On one hand this is simply because even if the risks are small, the impacts of risks such as groundwater contamination to other areas of the Scottish economy, such as tourism and the whisky industry, are easily high enough to justify applying the Precautionary Principle as a justification of the ban. As this is a cornerstone of European policymaking on science and technology, I would be surprised if a court would rule against such a justification, especially now France has also implemented a ban.

However, and more importantly, fracking offers comparatively little or nothing in the way of additional benefits, whereas the further increases in support for renewable energy outlined in the draft Scottish Energy Strategy, all work more strongly towards wider government objectives such as alleviating fuel poverty in rural and island areas that lack gas connections, supporting community empowerment and regeneration, and future-proofing the energy industry.

READ MORE: Petrochemical firm Ineos in legal bid to challenge fracking ban

Dr Keith Baker is a researcher in energy policy at Glasgow Caledonian University and co-author of the new and forthcoming books ‘A Critical Review of Scottish Renewable and Low Carbon Energy Policy’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) and ‘The Long Goodbye? Managing the decline of fossil fuels’ (Palgrave Macmillan, late 2018).