DEVOLUTION of control over shale gas fracking in Scotland to Holyrood has moved a step closer in a move hailed by Nationalists as a 'victory for commonsense.'


The UK Government's decision comes at a time when the gas is being lauded for leading an energy revolution in the US, driving down prices.

But there have been protests over the controversial method of its extraction, amid fears people's homes could be affected.

On Tuesday, the Coalition Government agreed to remove Scotland from new provisions over underground access contained in the Infrastructure Bill currently going through Westminster.

The effect will be to leave the current arrangement in Scotland as they are, paving the way for any changes to be decided in the future by MSPs .

A handover of the powers was recommended by the Smith Commission, to which all the main parties are committed.

Last night a spokesman for the Coalition emphasised that the move was "not the same as devolving the power to the Scottish Parliament".

But a coalition source said ministers were keen to see movement on that issue.

Tom Greatrex, Labour's shadow energy minister, said: "While some in Holyrood would like to pretend that the Scottish Government is powerless to act over fracking, the truth is that already nothing can happen at all in Scotland without the approval of ministers in Edinburgh. Their control over the planning and permitting regime gives the SNP ultimate responsibility and an effective veto for shale gas extraction in Scotland.

"But in the context of devolved planning and permitting regimes, it makes sense for underground mineral access rights, which are essentially a secondary aspect of the planning process, should be devolved as well. Labour have won a major concession from the Government on this point, who will now exclude Scotland from changes being made in the Infrastructure Bill."

Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing said that the decision was a "victory for common sense".

He added: "It is a vindication of the Scottish Government's continued objections to UK Government plans to remove the right of Scottish householders to object to unconventional oil and gas drilling under their home.

"We're glad the UK Government has finally taken this on board - especially as 99 per cent of respondents to their own consultation also opposed the move."

Mary Church, head of campaigns for Friends of the Earth Scotland, which opposed the plans, said: "Taking away the right to say no to drilling under your home is one of the most outrageous aspects of the UK Government's drive for unconventional gas and fracking. The Scottish Government and thousands of people around the country objected to the removal of these rights last summer, so it is good news that UK Ministers have belatedly responded to this. Our sympathies are with those people in the rest of the UK who will still lose this right stop fracking underneath their homes."