3. Overview of responses
3.1 Chapter 2 provided a description of the respondents and types of responses received in the consultation. This chapter provides a high-level overview of the content of responses, before going on, in Chapters 4 to 13, to consider the detailed comments that respondents made in relation to each of the consultation questions.
3.2 As discussed in Chapter 1, the analysis in Chapters 4 to 13 is primarily qualitative in nature – focusing on the issues respondents raised and the reasons they gave for holding particular views. This chapter provides a broader context for understanding respondents' views and discusses the overall balance of opinion among respondents in relation to the development of an unconventional oil and gas industry. However, it is important to reiterate that, as with all consultations, regardless of the balance of opinion, it cannot be assumed that the views expressed in this consultation are representative of those of the general population.
Views on fracking and an unconventional oil and gas industry
3.3 As seen in Chapter 2 (paragraph 2.10), out of the 60,000+ responses received in this consultation, 86% took the form of standard campaign responses or petitions. In all of these, the respondents explicitly called for fracking to be permanently banned in Scotland.
3.4 The remaining 14% (n=8,425) of responses to the consultation were substantive responses. Within this group, with few exceptions, respondents made their views clear about fracking and / or the development of an unconventional oil and gas industry in Scotland, and the overwhelming majority expressed views that were clearly opposed.
3.5 Among organisations, there was near unanimous opposition to fracking among community councils and other community groups, third sector and non-governmental organisations, faith groups, political parties and other activist groups. In addition, a majority of private sector organisations (including all those in the food and drink sector), some public sector organisations (including some local authorities), and a majority of academic / research organisations expressed strong reservations or serious concerns about the development of an unconventional oil and gas industry in Scotland, even if they did not always call for an outright ban on fracking.
3.6 Fewer than 5% of those who submitted substantive responses (and fewer than 1% of respondents overall) expressed a different view on this issue. In the main, these other views came from:
- Organisational respondents in specific sectors – mainly the oil and gas and petrochemical industries, and related professional, membership or trade organisations – and a small number of individual respondents, all of whom were largely supportive of the development of an unconventional oil and gas industry in Scotland. (Note, however, that most professional, membership or trade organisations did not express views in support of unconventional oil and gas.)
- Organisational respondents from public sector organisations and regulatory bodies, who either did not express a view, or thought that it was not possible to come to a view based on the available evidence. This group also included a small number of individual respondents.
Views opposed to fracking and / or an unconventional oil and gas industry
3.7 Respondents who were opposed to unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland:
- Repeatedly emphasised the potential for significant and long-lasting negative impacts on communities, health, environment and climate
- Expressed scepticism about the ability of regulation to mitigate negative impacts
- Were unconvinced about the value of any economic benefit and the contribution of unconventional oil and gas to Scotland's energy mix, believing that any benefits would be relatively short-lived and far outweighed by the risks.
3.8 Throughout this report, such views are referred to as predominant views as they were the views of the overwhelming majority of both individual and organisational respondents.
Views in favour of the development of an unconventional oil and gas industry
3.9 Respondents who expressed positive views about the development of an unconventional oil and gas industry in Scotland generally:
- Emphasised the benefits for the economy, for communities, for the climate, and for Scotland's energy supply
- Thought that the positive impacts outweighed the risks and that, in any case, the risks associated with unconventional oil and gas extraction were no greater than the risks associated with any other industry
- Argued that the development of a strong and robust regulatory framework could mitigate any adverse impacts.
3.10 Such views were much less common and are referred to throughout this report as alternative views.
Views neither for nor against unconventional oil and gas
3.11 Among the respondents who did not express a specific view either for or against the development of an unconventional oil and gas industry, there were three groups: (i) some thought that it was not possible to make an informed decision on whether to develop an unconventional oil and gas industry given the gaps in the current evidence base; (ii) others discussed both the positive and negative impacts of the industry without making clear what their own view was; and (iii) a third group did not state a view, but instead discussed the implications for the remit of their own organisation if an unconventional oil and gas industry were developed.
3.12 Such views are also referred to in this report as alternative views as they were expressed by a relatively small number of respondents.
Pattern of views across consultation questions
3.13 In the chapters that follow, the patterns of response and views described above were similar across all questions. Any exceptions to this patterning are highlighted.