SCOTLAND could miss out on a shale gas boom as firms south of the border get the green light for fracking, it has been warned.

The UK Government has said that fracking applications will be fast-tracked south of the border, and has indicated its intention to override planning refusals by local authorities.

Meanwhile, a moratorium exists in Scotland, with the Scottish Government stating that further research and a consultation will be carried out before it is decided whether fracking is allowed.

Ineos, the firm that owns the Grangemouth petrochemical plant, has fracking exploration licences across large swathes of central Scotland and believes the controversial technique for shale gas extraction would provide a huge boost to the Scottish economy.

It welcomed the UK Government announcement, raising speculation that it may focus investment in sites in which it wants to carry out fracking south of the border.

The Scottish Conservatives warned that the country could miss out on thousands of jobs, and accused the SNP of failing to look at the issue rationally.

A spokesman added: "The Scottish Government has junked all rational debate to play to the gallery. The moratorium has been introduced despite its own independent advisors recommending that fracking be given the go-ahead."

However, any moves to allow fracking will be likely to be met with strong opposition from environmentalists.

Flick Monk, of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "The fracking industry is deeply unpopular across the whole of the UK, highlighted by the recent decision in Lancashire that rejected a fracking proposal after threatened local communities united in opposition."