THE firm that wants to set up a fracking industry in Scotland has blasted the SNP's position on the gas extraction technique as "absurd" and said it is costing jobs and investment.

Ineos, the petrochemical giant, is to begin shipping fracked shale gas from the east cost of America to its Grangemouth plant on purpose-built ships from next month.

The company has previously expressed support for the Scottish Government's policy of carrying out new studies before taking an "evidence led" decision over whether to allow fracking, as it is confident the research will back up previous experts in concluding it can be carried out safely with little environmental risk.

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However, the company has apparently lost patience with the process, with a decision not expected to be taken until next year and a public consultation over fracking, which sees water, sand and chemicals pumped underground to fracture rock and release gas, yet to begin.

Gary Hayward, the CEO of Ineos Shale, said the imports of fracked gas meant it was already helping to power the Scottish economy and that the SNP should speed up its study process before giving fracking the green light to secure jobs and investment at home.

He added: "The fact that Scotland is choosing not to end the moratorium and avoid the financial and carbon cost of transporting shale gas by utilising its own underground wealth is absurd. Equally absurd is that Scotland might not even make a decision until summer 2017, or after.

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"Indeed, if Holyrood does not act soon, any future Scottish shale gas developments will need to import the specialist skills from either other parts of the UK, or from overseas."

He added: "The Scottish Government should remember that over one million shale gas wells have now been drilled in the USA. The fact is that many hundreds of thousands of US citizens live perfectly safely in shale gas areas and benefit from the rewards that the gas brings.

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"At the moment, every pound the UK spends on imported gas leaves the country and does not return. Scotland has already missed out on jobs and investment. Our shale gas strategy aims to keep the benefits and the energy on this island and we would like Scotland and the Scottish people to be part of this energy revolution."