Why fracking has sparked the most heated debates since the Scottish independence referendum

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The debate over fracking in Scotland has produced some of the most heated clashes since the independence referendum.

The Scottish Government looks poised to finally draw a line under this issue when energy minister Paul Wheelhouse sets out plans for a ban on Thursday.

An anti-fracking protester in Scotland

An anti-fracking protester in Scotland

Scotland has been here before when the same minister unveiled an "effective ban" exactly two years at Holyrood, with even Nicola Sturgeon telling the Scottish Parliament that fracking was banned.

But an embarrassing court case brought by petrochemical giant Ineos found the ban had no legal standing.

READ MORE: Fracking ban ‘accidentally’ revealed by bungling Scottish Government officials
The Government's own lawyer James Mure even admitted that the effective ban was a “gloss” and the “language of a press statement”.

In fairness no fracking has taken place in Scotland since that time, with ministers using their clout over the planning system to ensure this.

The last two years have seen sundry consultations and studies undertaken by the Scottish Government into the technique which is formally known as hydraulic fracturing. it involves rocks up to a mile underground being “fractured” with high pressure water injection.

Shale gas then escapes and is piped back up to the surface. An independent panel of scientific experts tasked by the Scottish Government with looking into fracking has previously found the practice could be conducted safely in Scotland.

Scotland’s Central Belt alone is sitting on trillions of cubic feet of the stuff. A British Geological Survey (BGS) report a few years ago found this alone could provide enough gas to meet the country’s needs for the next half century.

READ MORE: Danielle Rowley: SNP aren’t serious about opposing fracking
Firms like Ineos had been keen to undertake drilling exploration to establish its commercial viability. With Scotland's oil and gas industry now in dowturnn and a shadow of its former self, supporters say it has the potential to be transformational to the economy.

But it is hugely controversial. In England, where fracking is allowed, energy giant Cuadrilla this week abandoned a site in Lancashire after earthquakees were recorded as a result of the practice.

The firm insists it is looking at other wells which have been fractured to assess their potential. There is also the broader concerns about the impact of extracting more fossil fuels to burn at a time when the Scottish Government has warned of a "climate emergency" which needs to be tackled.

As a new generation takes to the streets across the country demanding action on climate change, it would seem that fracking is no longer unpalatable.