THE chief executive of global petrochemicals giant Ineos has called for an overhaul of UK energy policy and for manufacturing to be placed at the heart of the economy as Britain faces up to life on the outside of the European Union (EU).

And John McNally, who runs Ineos' sprawling Grangemouth site, urged Scottish ministers to review its current moratorium on granting consents for fracking in Scotland, declaring that industry would be transformed if companies such as Ineos were free to tap into indigenous shale resources.

Mr McNally was speaking as Ineos puts the finishing touches to a £450 million investment in an ethane terminal in Grangemouth, which will allow the company to import liquid ethane to Scotland from the US and process it into ethylene and polyethylene for a variety of uses.

While Mr McNally said the investment has secured the 1,400 jobs at the site for the next 10 to 15 years, he declared it is “crazy” that the company has had to invest millions to import and process shale from the US when shale gas resources are sitting “a couple of kilometres underneath our feet in Grangemouth”.

Ineos holds exploration licences for unconventional gas around central Scotland, but until the moratorium is lifted it is focusing on fracking activity from its site in Hull in the north of England.

Asked if now was the right time to lift the moratorium in Scotland, given the post-Brexit uncertainty in the economy, Mr McNally said: “Absolutely. There are two issues. Manufacturing overall is now 10 per cent of GDP, according to the World Bank, which is quite concerning. The other issue for us energy prices.

“Energy prices in Europe in general are two to three times as high as they are in the US. Anyone can look at what’s going on the US – they’ve had a whole manufacturing revolution around shale gas and low energy.

"If we had our own shale gas economy here we could have lots of natural gas again, and feedstock again to supply plants like mine. It’s a double win as far as I’m concerned.”

Mr McNally noted that Ineos was sanguine about its own prospects following the referendum, but said the need for manufacturing to be revived is pressing. He said: “Probably more than ever now we need a strong manufacturing base in the UK if we are to be going it alone. We as Ineos have been very concerned about the decline of manufacturing in the UK, and we are trying to put our money where our mouth is by doing something about it."

Citing its investment in Grangemouth and Hull, where an upgrade will give it the capacity to put 100,000 tonnes of ethyl acetate into the market over the next year, he added: “Ineos’ message is we need a strong manufacturing base here in the UK now more than ever, and Ineos is going to be investing.”

Ineos has pledged to upgrade the infrastructure in other parts of the 1,700 acres Grangemouth site once work on the ethane terminal is completed in September, with Mr McNally noting that it has suffered decades of under-investment. That will involve the development of new headquarters for the Ineos chemical business and demolishing old assets.

“We’re making space to bring new investments on to the site,” he said. “Those investments might be Ineos’ investments, but they also could be third-party investments. We’re quite open to the idea that we are a landlord that could provide infrastructure to other companies that would come on to the site. We’ve done that very effectively at our site in Antwerp in Europe, for example.

“We’d very much like to do the same sort of thing in Grangemouth.”

Energy minister Fergus Ewing defended the Scottish Government's decision to hold a national debate on fracking. He said in March: "We think that we should take a moderate approach, based on analysing evidence and thereafter having a debate and coming up with a conclusion after involvement with and consultation of all of the people of Scotland . I suspect that quite a lot of people in our electorate, the people of Scotland, would like to know a bit more about the issue."