Unconventional oil and gas policy: BRIA

Business and regulatory impact assessment (BRIA) of our policy position on development of onshore unconventional oil and gas (UOG).


The consultation on the business and regulatory impacts of the development of unconventional oil and gas policy undertaken between October – December 2018 was a key step in the cautious, evidence-led approach adopted by the Scottish Government in considering onshore unconventional oil and gas in Scotland. Previous work included research commissioned by the Scottish Government and the 2017 public consultation, Talking "Fracking", which received 60,535 responses. Approximately 99% of respondents who expressed a view were opposed to fracking.

A SEA Environmental Report of the Scottish Government's preferred policy position was published in October 2018, alongside the updated preferred policy position statement and a partial BRIA. Views were invited on the contents of these documents during an eight-week consultation in late 2018.

As part of the commitment to transparency and dialogue on this important issue, Scottish Government officials undertook a workshop with oil and gas industry members and regulators to engage on the contents of the partial BRIA, and feed back views which have helped shape the final BRIA.

The responses received to the recent consultation on the SEA, partial BRIA, and updated preferred policy position statement led the Scottish Government to form the view that it would be helpful to provide some further clarification on a number of points raised in response to the consultation documents. To address this matter, the Scottish Government published an addendum to the 2018 consultation documents in April 2019, and invited further comments on the points covered over an eight week period, in line with the 2018 consultation period.

Along with previous work undertaken by the Scottish Government, the responses received to the 2018 consultation, and the consultation on the addendum, have been taken into account and are reflected in this final BRIA.

Within Government

The Scottish Government has consulted the following internal departments in the development of the proposals contained in this BRIA: Directorate for Economic Development; Directorate for Legal Services (Solicitor to the Scottish Government); Directorate for Energy and Climate Change; Directorate for Local Government and Communities; Directorate for Chief Economist; and Directorate for Justice.

In addition, the Scottish Government has consulted the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Coal Authority on the potential impact of the proposals. Their respective comments are reflected in the costs and benefits section of this BRIA.

Public Consultation

The Scottish Government's finalised policy position has been subject to the outcome of a SEA. The 2018 SEA Environmental Report provided an assessment of the likely significant environmental effects of the preferred policy position and 'reasonable alternatives' to it. The Scottish Government's preferred position as assessed was that it does not support the development of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland. This is on the basis that the development of an unconventional oil and gas industry in Scotland would make achieving its ambitious energy and climate change commitments even more challenging. Whilst acknowledging the important role of gas in the transition to a low carbon energy future, the addition of an onshore unconventional oil and gas industry would not promote our ability to meet our greenhouse gas emissions targets or objectives in relation to protecting and enhancing the environment.

It is recognised that some may regard the development of the industry, subject to the relevant licensing and permitting regimes, as alternatives to the preferred policy position. These alternatives were described in the SEA Environmental Report as:

'business as usual';

pilot project.

As set out in the 2019 addendum to the 2018 consultation, Ministers consider there is in effect no option that is a 'reasonable alternative' to the preferred policy position. Ministers consider it clear that, measured against the stated policy objectives, neither the 'Business As Usual' nor the 'Pilot Project' alternative can reasonably be expected to achieve either the positive environmental or social outcomes offered by the preferred policy position.

That notwithstanding, the Scottish Government does consider it useful that the SEA Environmental Report assesses in particular the 'Business As Usual' scenario, which provides a benchmark against which to measure the likely environmental effects of the preferred policy position.

For completeness, all three scenarios are considered in this BRIA.

Views were invited on the SEA Environmental Report and the preferred policy position statement for a period of eight weeks on the Scottish Government's online consultation platform, Citizen Space, from October – December 2018, during which time we also welcomed views on the issues and options considered in the partial BRIA.

Responses were invited to the following question: What are your views on the opportunities and challenges that each of the options could have for businesses?


The Scottish Government held a workshop during the consultation period in November 2018 with oil and gas businesses and regulators:

  • DLA Piper
  • SEPA
  • Schlumberger
  • Kingdom Oil and Gas Ltd
  • Reach CSG Ltd


Email: onshoreoilandgas@gov.scot

Back to top