A TEMPORARY ban on fracking in Scotland has been described as a "political fix" designed to kick the contentious issue into the long grass until after the 2016 Holyrood election.


Scottish Conservative energy spokesman Murdo Fraser said that he suspected that Ineos, the firm which has licences for shale gas exploration across 700 square miles of land in central Scotland, may have been offered private reassurances that it will likely be able to begin fracking once a moratorium ends.

It has emerged that Nicola Sturgeon held talks with Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe on the day the moratorium was announced by her energy minister Fergus Ewing. The meeting, details of which were uncovered through a Freedom of Information request, coincided with a u-turn from Ineos which had previously spoken out strongly against a moratorium but then backed the Scottish Government's position.

Mr Fraser said: "We've always known that the moratorium was simply a political fix to kick the issue into the long grass until after the UK and Scottish Parliamentary elections.

"Ineos' view since the moratorium is that they are relaxed about it providing that it is relatively short-term in nature.

"Given the conversations that appear to have taken place between Ineos and the Scottish Government it seems that they may have received reassurances about the issue."

The Scottish Government has said that the meeting had been planned for January 28 long before Mr Ewing's statement to parliament was arranged, and that it is normal to engage with stakeholders in the energy and environmental sector. The fact the meeting took place would have eventually been published.

However, Richard Dixon, Director Friends of the Earth Scotland, has said members of the public would have been "alarmed" to learn of the private talks.

He added: "Fracking continues to be a finely balanced issue within the Scottish Government and the moratorium is a good way to ensure that all the issues are examined and the views of the public and communities across Scotland understood.

"However, for everyone to believe that the moratorium is a genuinely even-handed exercise we need to see the detail of exactly what will be studied by whom and the Government needs to be completely transparent about who it has met with."

Green MSP Alison Johnstone said she would continue to campaign for a permanent ban on fracking.

She said: "The First Minister made time to meet with Ineos on the day of the announcement and now I look forward to hearing that she will meet with and listen to those communities still facing the reality of fracking nearby."

A source close to the First Minister said: "Some of this criticism is very misplaced - it might be more valid if we hadn't announced a moratorium on fracking. Ministers will meet people on both sides of this debate, and we will deal with the issue on the basis of hard facts and scientific evidence."