The Discursive Politics of Unconventional Gas in Scotland: Drifting Towards Precaution?


Stephan H (2017) The Discursive Politics of Unconventional Gas in Scotland: Drifting Towards Precaution?. Energy Research and Social Science, 23, pp. 159-168.

With a long history of oil and gas production and potentially significant reserves of unconventional gas, Scotland represents a notable case amid the growing international controversy over unconventional gas development (UGD). This article applies argumentative discourse analysis to the Scottish debate over UGD and identifies several important storylines which have mobilised different discourse coalitions and shaped public opinion as well as policy-making. For now, anti-UGD storylines appear more encompassing and have achieved greater resonance. Of particular interest, however, is the role of the Scottish government as a third discourse coalition. Through a moratorium on all forms of UGD and a cautious 'evidence-based approach', the government has established a form of discursive dominance and has successfully minimised electoral risks. But its anti-Westminster storyline - created in the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 - has undermined the government's pragmatic strategy by invoking Scottish resistance to the UK’s pursuit of shale gas. While the evidence-based approach persists as the preeminent storyline, its interpretation has 'drifted' from (1) a modestly reformed planning policy to (2) an exercise in scientific fact-finding combined with a public consultation and, arguably, (3) to a precautionary approach that might lay the foundation for an extended moratorium.

Unconventional gas; fracking; discourse coalitions; Scotland

Energy Research and Social Science: Volume 23

Publication date31/01/2017
Publication date online31/10/2016
Date accepted by journal20/09/2016