Fracking opponents have welcomed Fergus Ewing’s removal from the Scotland Government’s energy brief and called on his successor Keith Brown to ban the divisive gas extraction technology.
Mr Ewing, who has been promoted from energy minister to Rural Affairs Secretary, angered environmentalists when he announced a moratorium on fracking with the caveat “we should never close our minds to the potential opportunities of new technologies”.
Mr Brown will now co-ordinate energy policy as part of the newly-created portfolio of Economy, Jobs and Fair Work.
Patrick Harvie, co-convener of the Scottish Greens, said it was “pleasing” to see Mr Ewing removed from the energy brief.
“Fergus Ewing has described fracking as an opportunity we must never close our minds to,” he said.
“His successor, Keith Brown, can expect further pressure from Greens and others to turn the temporary moratorium into a permanent ban to protect our communities.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who defied a party conference vote in favour of fracking to advocate a ban in his 2016 manifesto, said: “Shifting Fergus Ewing away from fracking just exposes the fault lines in the SNP on the environment.”
Mr Brown expressed “serious concerns” about fracking during his failed bid for election as SNP deputy leader but backed the moratorium “until we can get a clearer picture of the situation”.
The SNP has come under internal pressure for a ban from a collective called SNP Members Against Unconventional Oil and Gas (Smaug).
Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, welcomed the appointment of Roseanna Cunningham as Scotland’s first dedicated Climate Change Secretary.