MORE than half of people support the current temporary ban on fracking in Scotland just months after the first imports of shale gas arrived on the country’s shores, according to a new opinion poll.

Fewer than a fifth of the 1,000 people questioned over the controversial issue are opposed to the ban on the process which sees natural gas extracted from the earth.

The Scottish Government has retained its moratorium announced in January last year, despite petro-chemical giant Ineos making the first shipments of the gas to Grangemouth in September, and plans a public consultation next year.

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Opposition politicians said the BMG survey for The Herald showed ministers should ban fracking completely.

But the Scottish Government said it showed Scots back their decision it was determined to take a “cautious, evidence-led approach”.

Liam McArthur, the Scottish Liberal Democrats energy spokesman, said: “This survey shows that the SNP should stop dragging their heels and ban fracking altogether.”

Opening up a new front of carbon-based energy production would do nothing to meet climate commitments, he added.

“While the indications are that the Scottish Government is heading towards a ban, they still remain nailed to the fence.

“If the SNP are serious about tackling climate change, ministers must join the Scottish Liberal Democrats in unequivocally ruling out fracking.”

Lang Banks, the director of WWF Scotland, said: “It’s great to see a majority of Scots have seen through the PR spin of the fossil fuel industry and are in favour of a fracking ban.”

He urged Scottish ministers to “listen to the public and implement a ban on fracking as they have already done on underground coal gasification”.

The survey also found 20 per cent of Scots reject the idea that global warming is related to human action.

But the Scottish Government said ministers were determined to take a “cautious, evidence-led approach”.

The poll found also that support for gas exploration collapsed when the word “fracking” was mentioned.

The process sees water, sand and chemicals pumped deep underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release gas.

However, the SNP Government has come under pressure to make a long-term decision after the Grangemouth refinery began importing US shale gas to Scotland in September.

Scottish ministers are to hold a public consultation next year.

The poll asked: “The Scottish Government currently has a temporary ban on fracking in Scotland. Do you support or oppose the continuation of the ban?”

BMG found that 54 per cent of Scots said that they supported a ban, 19 per cent were opposed, while the rest said that neither option fitted their opinion.

The poll, of 1,039 people in October, found SNP and Labour voters opposed fracking, while Conservatives backed it.