THE Scottish Government must "come clean" on fracking after Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe claimed he had been given private assurances that ministers supported the controversial drilling technique.

Mr Ratcliffe, chief executive and chairman of Ineos, which runs Scotland's largest petrochemical plant at Grangemouth, said the Scottish Government was "not against fracking" despite an indefinite moratorium on planning consent. He suggested an onshore shale gas industry could be set up in Scotland within a few years.

Scottish Labour said it would introduce a triple-lock system to halt any onshore fracking taking place in Scotland until environmental and health safeguards are in place, including a local referendum before final planning approval is given.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Energy Minister Lewis Macdonald said: “The SNP Government need to come clean on fracking, they can’t continue to face both ways on an issue of real concern to thousands of Scots.

“The SNP made a big play of their opposition to fracking during the general election, they announced a moratorium but the consultation appears to have been kicked into the long grass. If it turns out their stance was simply a cheap electoral ploy it will be seen as a cynical betrayal by thousands of people who voted for them in May."

Mr Macdonald added that Scottish Labour supported calls by Friends of the Earth Scotland today for Nicola Sturgeon to publish the minutes of her meeting with Mr Ratcliffe on January 28, the same date that SNP energy minister Fergus Ewing announced the moratorium.

Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian, said she believed public opinion would stand in the way of attempts to launch fracking in Scotland.

She added: “The latest comments from Mr Ratcliffe are not surprising given his vested interest, but what I would find surprising is if his vision of a Scotland with more polluting fossil fuels at the heart of our industrial future is shared by the majority of Scots."

However Scottish Conservative Murdo Fraser urged the SNP to be "open-minded" on fracking and not "let the potential of a shale gas bonaza pass".

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As previously published correspondence shows, the meeting with Ineos was just one of the regular meetings that ministers have with the whole range of stakeholders in the energy and environmental sector.

“Mr Ratcliffe’s comments simply reflect what we have already said publicly on this issue – no fracking can or will take place in Scotland while the moratorium we have announced remains in place, a policy that has received wide support from both environmental groups and industry.

“We are taking a careful, considered and evidence-based approach to unconventional oil and gas, and the moratorium and the planned public consultation will allow all stakeholders and local communities to have their say.”