Scottish Labour accuses SNP of links to fracking industry

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has held further talks with fracking industry representatives since the SNP announced their moratorium on the controversial drilling technique more than a year ago, it has been revealed.

Anti-fracking protestors Hands Over Our Forth last October. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

The news about talks with Grangemouth owner Ineos came after it emerged that the Scottish Government awarded £135,000 to researchers to carry out detailed investigations into the impact of fracking. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs last week that fracking in Scotland “ain’t allowed to happen” as Labour pledged to ban the process used to extract shale gas and oil, going into May’s election.

However, Labour published documents yesterday that made public talks Mr Swinney had held with Ineos director Tom Crotty on 15 April last year, just three months after Ms Sturgeon announced a moratorium on fracking.

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Nicola Sturgeon had already met Jim Ratcliffe, chairman of Ineos, which holds shale gas licences, in January 2015, on the same day she announced the restrictions.

Mr Swinney and the then Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael also met Ineos staff in February 2015.

However, documents released under freedom of information laws confirm that Mr Swinney had a further meeting with the company, when he held talks with Mr Crotty on 15 April in 2015.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay attacked a Scottish Government decision to refuse to state the details of what was discussed during the talks.

Mr Findlay said: “We know that Nicola Sturgeon met with Ineos the day the temporary fracking freeze was announced and we know now that John Swinney has met with them at least twice since.

“What are the two most senior people in the SNP government saying to a company who stand to gain millions from fracking, and why won’t they tell the people of Scotland?

“Nicola Sturgeon now needs to come clean - if the research she has ordered says it is safe will she give fracking the green light? If the answer is no and she will not allow fracking whatever the report says then the SNP must support Labour’s call for an outright ban.”

However, a spokesman for the Deputy First Minister accused Mr Findlay of “conjuring up phantom conspiracies” about ministers and Ineos.

Mr Swinney’s spokesman said: “As the First Minister has clearly said she is highly sceptical about fracking and that a moratorium on fracking means no fracking.

“No fracking can or will take place while the Scottish Government’s moratorium on unconventional oil and gas remains in place.”