5 questions answered on the fracking comments

According to Cameron,"fracking is safe."

Five questions answered on PM David Cameron’s recent fracking comments

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has outlined why he thinks people must accept fracking in the UK countryside. We answer five questions on his comments.

What are the key points made by David Cameron in his article?

The Prime Minister wrote the article to speak out in favour of fracking. He said: "fracking has real potential to drive energy bills down", adding that it will create jobs, bring money to local neighbourhoods and that "local people will not be cut out and ignored."

What about the potential damage to the environment, did he address this issue? 

Yes. According to Cameron,"fracking is safe." He says: "International evidence shows there is no reason why the process should cause contamination of water supplies or other environmental damage, if properly regulated." He added that: "I would never sanction something that might ruin our landscapes and scenery."

What about the North/South issue, where will fracking take place?

Cameron, who is no doubt keen to repair damage done by his father-in-law and former government advisor, Lord Howell of Guildford, who said a few weeks ago that gas fracking should be confined to the North East because it was full of "large and uninhabited and desolate areas," confirmed that fracking should take place in both the South and North of England and not just in certain parts of Britain as has been suggested.

He said: "This is wrong. I want all parts of our nation to share in the benefits: north or south, Conservative or Labour. We are all in this together."

What did he say are the benefits of fracking to local communities?

Cameron laid out the benefits fracking could bring to local communities.

"Fracking will bring money to local neighbourhoods," he said

"Companies have agreed to pay £100,000 to every community situated near an exploratory well where they’re looking to see if shale gas exists. If gas is then extracted, 1 per cent of the revenue – perhaps as much as £10m – will go straight back to residents who live nearby."

He added that this money could be used for reduction in council tax bills or invested in neighbourhood schools.

What have those against fracking said?

Tim Farron, president of the Liberal Democrat party in coalition government with Cameron’s Conservatives, has said fracking may damage rural areas.

He told The Sunday Telegraph earlier in the month: I am afraid the Government has seen flashing pound signs, and has not considered the long-term threats fracking poses to the countryside.

"I think this is a very short-sighted policy, and we will all be left to live with the consequences."

He added: "This technology can lead to earth tremors and I’m particularly worried that buried nuclear waste in my part of the country could be affected. We should be investing more in renewable fuels."

A Greenpeace sign outside Conservative HQ. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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"We repealed, then forgot": the long shadow of Section 28 homophobia

Why are deeply conservative views about the "promotion" of homosexuality still being reiterated to Scottish school pupils? 

Grim stories of LGBTI children being bullied in school are all too common. But one which emerged over the weekend garnered particular attention - because of the echoes of the infamous Section 28, nearly two decades after it was scrapped.

A 16-year-old pupil of a West Lothian school, who does not wish to be named, told Pink News that staff asked him to remove his small rainbow pride badge because, though they had "no problem" with his sexuality, it was not appropriate to "promote it" in school. It's a blast from the past - the rules against "promoting" homosexuality were repealed in 2000 in Scotland, but the long legacy of Section 28 seems hard to shake off. 

The local authority responsible said in a statement that non-school related badges are not permitted on uniforms, and says it is "committed to equal rights for LGBT people". 

The small badge depicted a rainbow-striped heart, which the pupil said he had brought back from the Edinburgh Pride march the previous weekend. He reportedly "no longer feels comfortable going to school", and said homophobia from staff members felt "much more scar[y] than when I encountered the same from other pupils". 

At a time when four Scottish party leaders are gay, and the new Westminster parliament included a record number of LGBTQ MPs, the political world is making progress in promoting equality. But education, it seems, has not kept up. According to research from LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall, 40 per cent of LGBT pupils across the UK reported being taught nothing about LGBT issues at school. Among trans students, 44 per cent said school staff didn’t know what "trans" even means.

The need for teacher training and curriculum reform is at the top of campaigners' agendas. "We're disappointed but not surprised by this example," says Jordan Daly, the co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education [TIE]. His grassroots campaign focuses on making politicians and wider society aware of the reality LGBTI school students in Scotland face. "We're in schools on a monthly basis, so we know this is by no means an isolated incident." 

Studies have repeatedly shown a startling level of self-harm and mental illness reported by LGBTI school students. Trans students are particularly at risk. In 2015, Daly and colleagues began a tour of schools. Shocking stories included one in which a teacher singled out a trans pupils for ridicule in front of the class. More commonly, though, staff told them the same story: we just don't know what we're allowed to say about gay relationships. 

This is the point, according to Daly - retraining, or rather the lack of it. For some of those teachers trained during the 1980s and 1990s, when Section 28 prevented local authorities from "promoting homosexuality", confusion still reigns about what they can and cannot teach - or even mention in front of their pupils. 

The infamous clause was specific in its homophobia: the "acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" could not be mentioned in schools. But it's been 17 years since the clause was repealed in Scotland - indeed, it was one of the very first acts of the new Scottish Parliament (the rest of the UK followed suit three years later). Why are we still hearing this archaic language? 

"We repealed, we clapped and cheered, and then we just forgot," Daly says. After the bitter campaign in Scotland, in which an alliance of churches led by millionaire businessman Brian Souter poured money into "Keeping the Clause", the government was pleased with its victory, which seemed to establish Holyrood as a progressive political space early on in the life of the parliament. But without updating the curriculum or retraining teaching staff, Daly argues, it left a "massive vacuum" of uncertainty. 

The Stonewall research suggests a similar confusion is likely across the UK. Daly doesn't believe the situation in Scotland is notably worse than in England, and disputes the oft-cited allegation that the issue is somehow worse in Scotland's denominational schools. Homophobia may be "wrapped up in the language of religious belief" in certain schools, he says, but it's "just as much of a problem elsewhere. The TIE campaign doesn't have different strategies for different schools." 

After initial disappointments - their thousands-strong petition to change the curriculum was thrown out by parliament in 2016 - the campaign has won the support of leaders such as Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale, and recently, the backing of a majority of MSPs. The Scottish government has set up a working group, and promised a national strategy. 

But for Daly, who himself struggled at a young age with his sexuality and society's failure to accept it, the matter remains an urgent one.  At just 21, he can reel off countless painful stories of young LGBTI students - some of which end in tragedy. One of the saddest elements of the story from St Kentigern's is that the pupil claimed his school was the safest place he had to express his identity, because he was not out at home. Perhaps for a gay pupil in ten years time, that will be a guarantee. 

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