Simple answer is "No"! There are several things which Scottish Government could do to make fracking and unconventional gas extraction very unattractive as this blog explains.
Owenstown is billed by its developers as an eco-town with a cooperative ethos. However, the plans show little concern for sustainability.
The town has very poor public transport links, and no chance of ever being link to the rail network. Bus services in the area are limited, so most residents would have to drive to reach other towns.
The site is on a north facing slope, which limits the ability to design houses to maximise thermal gain. There is no possibility of using hydro power on the site. Although the site is exposed and windy there are no plans to install wind turbines, and domestic scale renewables such as heat pumps and solar panels have not been included on buildings. Building insulation will only meet the minimum required by the building regulations in the interests of affordability. While Greens would welcome a well designed eco-town we do not think that Owenstown is it!
While Greens support not for profit coops in principle we do not see how cooperative values could be enforced as a planning requirement. We also do not see why there is a need for services normally provided by the public sector such as schools and health need to be run as opted out coops at Owenstown.
Therefore we do not support the Owenstown proposal.
The Greens are very concerned about how SLC has handled this new build school. We feel that the community has not been properly consulted and SLC has not taken heed of people's concerns.
We are particularly concerned about the proposal to demolish the existing school, which is a part of Biggar's heritage and borders the conservation area and replace it with a car park. John St is already narrow and dangerous with no pavements, a car park on the current school site will only make things worse. Children and cars do not mix!
We also feel that it is a waste to demolish the current school building when it could be used for other purposes.
The design of the school itself does not meet guidelines for school design - classroom space is inadequate, and we don't think that younger children should have to go upstairs to reach classrooms. There is also not enough outdoor play space for the proposed number of pupils.
We are also concerned that while the new school is being built facilities for the children. They are not getting a proper school meals service and are having to eat in classroom with only a sandwiches and snacks being provided. Although soup is available on some days, on other days there is no hot food available at all. For children on free school meals the provision of a decent school lunch can be really vital. In addition there space for indoor sports in inadequate with reports of "sport" being children playing table tennis on their desks.
It seems that the whole project has been rushed through to tick boxes on someone's appraisal form with no regard to the views of people in Biggar, the needs of children or the legal requirements for school provision.
A citizen's income is a payment which would be made to everyone to cover basic living costs, rather like the state pension. This would replace the complicated system benefits and tax credits currently paid to people who can't work or who are on low pay.
A citizen's income would given a guaranteed income to stay at home parents, carers, and people who wanted to do voluntary work. It would also mean that people with their own business would have the security of knowing that they would always have at least a basic income.
While some people might be happy with just the citizen's income, many would want to work to top it up in order to buy non-essential items.
A citizen's income would be much simpler and cheaper to adminster than the current system of benefits and tax credits.
The Greens think that any company which buys these sites must become responsible for restoring them.
We are very concerned about why South Lanarkshire Council was fobbed of with restoration bonds which were inadequate. Restoration bonds are supposed to provide money to restore site in the event that the operator goes bankrupt, but the bonds lodge by Scottish Coal only cover a fraction of the cost. We would like an independent inquiry into what went wrong to find out with SLC took proper independent advice on the costs of restoration. An inquiry in East Ayrshire found that councillors or councillor officers accepted gifts from mining companies and we would like to know whether the same thing happened in South Lanarkshire.
Until there has been an inquiry into what has gone wrong with setting the amount restoration bond we do not think that SLC should grant any more planning applications for minerals extraction which might leave sites which are expensive to restore.
Fracking is a new technology which can be used to extract gas trapped in bubbles in the rocks. It involved pumping high pressure water and chemicals ("fracking fluids") down wells to crack the rocks and release the gas. Where it has been used elsewhere in the world e.g the US and Australia some of the fracking fluids and contaminants from the rocks have found their way into groundwater contaminating it with cancer-causing and radioactive materials. In some gases methane gas has leaked into the water making is possible to set the water on fire, and in extreme cases fracking has caused small earthquakes. There have also been many cases where the greenhouse gas methane has leaked from the well heads.
Fracking is used to extract gas from coal and shale layers, but it is not always necessary to frack to extract gas from these rocks. More accessible pockets of coalbed methane and shale gas can be extracted without fracking, but experience elsewhere has shown that once the gas wells are sunk they tend to be fracked eventually as the initial rate of supply tails off. Coal gasification is another "unconventional" gas extraction technique which involves setting fire to coal underground and bringing out a gas similar to old fashioned "towns gas". Coal gasification does not involve fracking.
There are coal and shale deposits under much of Lanarkshire and the UK government has recently offered licences to enable companies to carry out exploratory drilling. Although Scottish Government have stated that there should be a buffer zone between unconventional gas sites and houses they have not specified how large this zone should be. However they have recently said that they oppose ground being fracked under people's houses without their permission.
Greens oppose unconvential has extraction because it will continue our reliance on fossil fuels which add to greenhouse gas emissions, and as well as because of the risks it poses to groundwater.
Greens see Scottish independence as a stage on a journey to make decision making more local and give people more control over decisions which affect their community. We do not see this finishing with moving power to Holyrood, but want to see it further transfered from Holyrood to Hamilton and from Hamilton to local communities.
Many key Green policies such as removal of nuclear weapons and ensuring a sustainable low carbon energy supply and safeguarding local jobs can only be achieved in an Independent Scotland as Westminster will not give Scotland control of these via devolution. Foreign policy is another area which would not be devolved, yet is we need to be in control of to end our involvement in illegal wars, and to have full control over our relations with the EU.
We do not see Independence as something which will give "business as usual but from Holyrood", but rather a chance to implement some radical changes in what we value and how we do things.
The Greens would fund their policies in several ways.
Firstly we would Scrap Trident, which would save billions, and withdraw our troops from costly and illegal wars in other people's countries.
We would also prioritise clamping down on tax evasion and make the tax system simpler so that it is harder to use loopholes to avoid paying tax. We would push for more progressive taxation so that those people and companies who could afford to pay more did so.
We would also review property tax with a view to switching to a system based on the value of the land rather than out of date property valuations.
Yes, it is true that wind turbines must be shut down in high winds ( typically when winds are greater than 55 mph or 25m/s), this is to prevent damage to the turbine. But consider, how often is the wind speed greater than 55 mph in Scotland? Winds of this speed are Force 10 (a storm) on the Beaufort Scale, described on the Royal Meterological Society's website as: "Seldom experienced inland; trees uprooted; considerable structural damage". So its probably not true to say it seriously curtails the viability of wind power in Scotland.
More on the Beaufort Scale
Good question. The grants for renewables have now dried up and with the up-front costs of micro-generation still unrealistic for many, we won't see a mass uptake any time soon under current government plans. However, the Green energy efficiency scheme we proposed in 2008 as part of the budget negotiations went further to include cash grants for renewables - see here - http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/2008/10/17/green-party-demand-100m-eco-boost-86908-20812372/.
The scheme this was based on one developed by Green councillors in Kirklees where lower renewable prices were negotiated because of the larger scale of the scheme. More details here http://www.kirklees.gov.uk/community/environment/energyconservation/warmzone/warmzonefaq.shtml
Power companies are now obliged to do much more on energy efficiency and renewables but they could still go further. In my view the role of the government is to be bring the companies on board through carrot and stick to get insulation and renewables into Scottish homes. I'm sure we'll be taking this campaign into the Holyrood campaign next year.