THE SNP has been challenged not to dodge a debate on fracking at the party's conference, after it emerged that grassroots members across Scotland are calling for an outright ban.

A series of local SNP branches have submitted resolutions on the topic ahead of October's mass meeting calling for overt opposition to controversial gas exploitation methods, as have the party's 15,000-strong trade unionist group.

A resolution from the Edinburgh Eastern branch states that fracking and Underground Coal Gasification (UCG), a process for exploiting coal underground by setting it alight and capturing gas, poses "serious threats to the environment and water course" and that possible financial rewards are not worth the risks.

The Forth SNP branch has also submitted a resolution calling for a fracking ban, with local member Iain Black, who sponsored the motion, saying members "understand that exploiting unconventional gas reserves by hydraulic fracturing is dangerous, dirty and wholly incompatible with our duty to combat climate change."

Steve Cardownie, an SNP Forth councillor and former deputy leader of Edinburgh Council, said: "I would be amazed if quite a number of similar resolutions haven't gone in."

While the SNP Government imposed a moratorium on unconventional oil and gas developments six months ago, energy minister Fergus Ewing has continued to dodge questions on the specifics of what it covers.

He is also under pressure to extend the moratorium to UCG, considered by many environmentalists to be more dangerous than fracking. Speaking last November as First Minister, Alex Salmond said UCG could be "an extremely effective environmental process".

John Wilson, an MSP who quit the SNP less than a year ago, said the party leadership should allow a fracking debate to take place at conference, but had strong doubts over whether they would do so with a vote in favour of a ban meaning the position would become party policy.

Mr Wilson said: "One of the lines of argument is that the revenue from fracking will help in going for independence."

An SNP spokesman said: "The resolutions debated at SNP conference will be published for party members in due course."

A spokesman for Cluff Natural Resources said UCG was "a tremendous energy opportunity" for Scotland and that a decade-long research project showed there were "no inherent risks".