Madness In Court As Politicians Are Caught Out In Fantasy Over Fracking

  • Date: 13/05/18
  • Michael Glacking, The Sunday Times

As last week’s astonishing hearing at the Court of Session made plain, any ambitious business that wants to invest, innovate, and create jobs, would be mad to hang their shingle in Scotland.

But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked. “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice. “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat could not have imagined he had summed up the Scottish government’s relationship with business and investment.

As last week’s astonishing hearing at the Court of Session made plain, any ambitious business that wants to invest, innovate, and create jobs, would be mad to hang their shingle in Scotland.

In case you missed it, the Scottish government was up before the beak over its decision to ban fracking last year in a case was brought Ineos owner Jim Ratcliffe and Reach CSG.

We know fracking is banned because first minister Nicola Sturgeon told us so last year. She shouted: “Fracking is being banned in Scotland, end of story.” Meanwhile, the SNP’s website states: “The Scottish Government has put in place a ban on fracking in Scotland — meaning fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland.” That pretty much passes the duck test.

Yet James Mure QC, the expensive silk representing the Scottish government, insisted the suggestion that fracking had been banned in Scotland was, er . . . wrong. He told the Court: “The concept of an effective ban is a gloss. It is the language of a press statement.”

Ineos director Tom Pickering rightly described it as an “Alice in Wonderland” situation. But why is anyone surprised?

We live in a political environment where the nation’s insipid economic growth is continually greeted as “good news” by the Scottish government, despite the fact that it is abysmal compared with that of the wider UK.

Then there’s the £500m business fund that has still failed to offer any significant cash to the nation’s entrepreneurs. There’s the vague plans for a National Investment Bank and the global business hubs across Europe’s capitals that exist mostly in the SNP’s imagination.

The crass duplicity on display in court last week is what passes for government in Scotland. A devolved parliament where the truth has no constituency and accountability is avoided at all costs. A place where, as Mr Pickering succinctly put it, businesses have to go to court to determine if ministerial announcements can be taken at face value. But this government isn’t just failing employers. Look at the debacle of our National Health Service in Scotland, the mess the Scottish government has created in our education system where standards are falling like a stone and teachers are paying for school supplies.

Ratcliffe’s company has invested £1.5bn at Grangemouth, the biggest industrial investment Scotland has seen for decades. His firm accounts for about 4% of Scotland’s economy. Along with the 1,300 workers at Grangemouth, Falkirk council estimates about 9,000 jobs in the area depend on the plant. He invested £200m buying the Forties pipeline, and has also spent, in good faith, £50m acquiring what are, to all intents and purposes, useless fracking licences in Scotland.

Despite this, and despite Ratcliffe’s clear commitment to Scotland, the Scottish government has consistently opposed his ambition and insulted his investment.

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