Full control over underground drilling for shale gas should be devolved to Holyrood, a Labour frontbencher has suggested.

Tom Greatrex, Labour's Shadow Energy Minister and the MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, said most of the powers around controversial "fracking" already lay north of the border.

But he suggested that the move would make clear that responsibility on the issue lay with Scottish ministers and make the issue less confusing for the public.

Scottish ministers protested earlier this year when the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government at Westminster outlined plans to allow fracking under people's homes without their permission.

Labour argue that Scottish ministers already have powers that could allow them to block such moves, through the planning system. Mr Greatrex said: "While some seek to suggest that the Scottish government are powerless on fracking, the reality is that nothing can happen at all in Scotland without permission from within Scotland, and a planning framework that is set by ministers in Edinburgh."

He added: "But given the underground access rights are a secondary aspect of the planning process, it makes sense to also devolve decision making on mineral access rights. While coal mining or the laying of gas, water or sewer pipes underground does not require permission of the owner of the land above, the extraction of geothermal heat, gas or oil does. While the courts in England found this was a trespass with no detriment, in Scotland we do not have a trespass law. I am suggesting that the response to this inconsistency in Scotland should be considered alongside the rest of the planning process."

Mr Greatrex said that this would bring some "coherence to what can be a confusing situation - so the public are clear where responsibility for these decisions in Scotland lie."

Experts suggest that Scotland only has a modest amount of shale gas and much less than in some parts of the north of England.

However, fracking could begin in Scotland in a little over a year and a half. Ineos, which operates the Grangemouth oil refinery in Stirlingshire, has announced it could be drill for gas in central Scotland by 2016. The SNP has said that fracking would be restricted if it were given increased powers over drilling.

Shale gas is credited in the US with massively reducing bills.

But there has been controversy because of how it is extracted from underground. There have been unverified reports in the US that fracking is responsible for small earthquakes. However, officials who examined the process last year announced that it was safe for use in Britain.