IN late January, Jim Murphy had been Scottish Labour leader for five weeks.

With polls predicting a general election disaster for his party and a few short months to avert catastrophe, he adopted a scatter gun approach to policy.

Searching for something - anything - that would stick, he promised 1,000 extra nurses paid for by the mansion taxes of the London super-rich and cast himself saviour of the oil industry. A 'clause four' moment was manufactured, highlighting his party's patriotism and independence. He'd even let you have a pint at the football.

The polls moved not a jot. The SNP gloated over a 'reverse honeymoon'. Back to Labour policy roulette. This time, fracking.

Labour called for a moratorium and, if proved safe, local referendums before developments went ahead. Industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) reacted angrily, saying a moratorium would "achieve nothing". Ineos, with more than 700 square miles of fracking exploration licences across Scotland, a few days later issued a stark warning that delays risked the collapse of UK manufacturing.

Later that week, SNP Energy Minister Fergus Ewing was on his feet at Holyrood, announcing his own moratorium while a public consultation and research was carried out, nipping the Labour attacks designed to appeal to left-leaning voters in the bud.

So far, so predictable. Environmentalists welcomed the move, and journalists waited for Ineos and UKOOG, so outraged at the prospect just days ago, to issue angry reaction. It never came. Instead, both Ineos and UKOOG (of which Ineos is a member) welcomed the moratorium.

What we didn't know then, and what Mr Ewing did not think to mention in his 3000 word contribution at Holyrood that day, was that Nicola Sturgeon was - at the same time - meeting with billionaire Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe. That information was dragged out of St Andrew's House using Freedom of Information laws.

Sources close to the FM said the clash was an innocent coincidence. Fine. So what did they talk about? The Government won't tell us.

An account of the meeting has been heavily redacted, citing commercial sensitivity. Ineos warned it would be relying less on gas supplies from the north sea, and told the First Minister it considers "the exploitation of unconventional resources in Scotland/UK are vital for both energy supplies and feedstocks." What she said, remains secret.

Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald, on February 18, submitted a series if parliamentary questions. He asked whether the moratorium would cover testing and preparatory drilling, when new studies promised would be carried out, and whether Underground Coal Gasification (UCG), a technique many consider more dangerous than fracking that is technically offshore but requires onshore infrastructure, was covered.

We have learned the answers to some of these questions, but not from the Government. Inoes told the FT the moratorium had "no impact" on preparatory work. Oil tycoon Algy Cluff, founder of the firm that has licences for UCG in the Firth of Forth, wrote to SNP minister Alex Neil days after the moratorium was announced, concerned at the impact on his lucrative plans. Mr Cluff, who was also in dialogue with Alex Salmond and Mr Ewing, warned "even a temporary delay until 2016... may set us back fatally". Mr Neil wrote back on February 5 reassuring him his plans were not affected.

But Mr Macdonald, which should have been answered within 10 days in which parliament was sitting, is still waiting for answers.

The consultation meanwhile, initially promised within a few months , is not expected to begin until the winter. It means that a decision on whether to allow fracking will probably not have to be made until after the next Holyrood election. How convenient.

The issue reared its head again this week, when John Swinney called for potential profits from fracking to be devolved to Holyrood. He claimed it was merely for "policy completeness" but opponents said it offered fresh evidence that behind the scenes, the party was paving the way to give fracking the green light. The Government has insisted it is taking "an evidence based approach", but studies it has already commissioned concluded that environmental risks can be safely managed.

Yet, the SNP has presented itself as overtly anti-fracking. Official party badges - in green - were produced during the election campaign with the term 'Frack Off' alongside the party logo. When challenged, the party said they were a reference to the moratorium.

A moratorium that, five months on and with Ineos never planning be engaged in full-scale fracking for several years anyway, is yet to have been shown to be anything other than an exercise in political misdirection.