Leader comment: Decision needed on fracking

Today's fracking industry report tells of a new opportunity for Scotland: thousands of jobs and a major shot in the arm for an economy which is currently lagging.

A consultation process on the controversial process of fracking is scheduled to close at the end of this month.

Of course, the figures come from the fracking industry itself, so we have to take what they say with a certain amount of caution.

However, fracking is something on which, as a nation, we need to make a decision.

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The Scottish Government has a long-standing moratorium on fracking – it has so far opted not to make a decision one way or another. Finally, a consultation into the controversial energy extraction technique is to end this month.

Once the evidence is gathered, a decision needs to be made as quickly as possible – either to rule it out or grasp the opportunity and its economic advantages.

Embracing fracking would be a controversial road to go down, but one which must be considered, given the potential economic benefits for Scotland.

There are obviously many things to take into consideration: potential health concerns and environmental problems. However, there are conflicting reports – there is one body of evidence which says it is a good thing and another which says it is bad.

There are some countries which have had major problems with it, but others have embraced the industry successfully and without any major hitches.

What the Scottish Government’s consultation should be able to do is to work out what is the best way forward for us as a nation.

If that decision is that fracking should be ruled out in Scotland, then we need to move on and look at other economic opportunities which could help us move out of the current situation, where we are constantly teetering on the brink of recession.

If we decide that fracking is the way forward, then we need to embrace it as quickly as possible to take advantage of as much benefit as we can get from the industry.

Whichever road we take, it needs to be done soon because the longer the moratorium goes on, the more it raises the suspicion that no-one is in a hurry to tackle a potentially damaging issue.

Any further delay will only add weight to the suggestion that the Scottish Government does not want to take an unpopular decision - one way or the other - which would cost it votes at the ballot box.