Public opinion in Scotland will play a key role in the final decision on whether to ban fracking, environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham has said.
But the SNP Government was accused of being “out of touch” on the issue and closing the door on thousands of jobs at a time of widespread lay-offs in the North Sea oil industry.
Ms Cunningham set out the priorities to protect Scotland’s natural environment as she addressed MSPs at Holyrood today. The SNP has imposed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing - a technique to extract shale gas from underground rocks - while research is carried out into its environmental impact. There have been concerns that it can produce earthquakes and affect water supplies.
Ms Cunningham told MSPs today: “This Government is deeply sceptical about fracking and we have ensured that no fracking can take place by putting in place a moratorium.
“We are also undertaking thorough research and plan to consult the people of Scotland fully on the issue so that any decision is based on both the evidence and public opinion.”
Ms Cunningham said a decision will be taken by energy minister Paul Wheelhouse, but is unlikely to be reached before the end of the Summer.
Labour is calling for an outright ban on fracking, a stance supported by the Greens and Liberal Democrats.
But Tory MSP Maurice Golden said a previous report commissioned by the Government found fracking could be safely conducted in Scotland.
He told Ms Cunningham: “On fracking you are out of step with the scientific evidence and with what consumers and businesses want and need.
“You need to stop playing politics and start standing up for Scottish jobs. How you can look the unemployed oil and gas workers in the eye while refusing them a new job is beyond me.”