THE SNP Government has blocked the full release of an account of a meeting between Nicola Sturgeon and Ineos chief Jim Ratcliffe, which took place while ministers called a temporary halt to fracking.

The summit between the First Minister and the billionaire industrialist, who wants to establish a large scale fracking industry in Scotland, was made public earlier this year after details were released following a Freedom of Information request.

The behind-closed-doors meeting coincided with a u-turn from Ineos, which had spoken out strongly against a fracking moratorium days before but then welcomed the move. In a lengthy submission to parliament on January 28 to announce the moratorium, the SNP energy minister Fergus Ewing made no mention that Ms Sturgeon was meeting with Scotland's leading champion of fracking at the same time.

Mr Ratcliffe has since said he has received private assurances that the Scottish Government is not against fracking, despite the SNP presenting itself as opposed to the technique during the general election campaign.

The Herald asked for copies of the minutes, through a new request dealt with through Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations. Only redacted versions have been provided following the request and a subsequent review. An appeal is set to be lodged with the Information Commissioner.

The parts of the minutes that were released show that Ineos, which owns the sprawling Grangemouth industrial complex, told the First Minister that it believed "in the long run... the exploitation of unconventional resources in Scotland/UK are vital for both energy supplies and feedstocks." Ineos's plans to ship shale gas from America to Scotland were also discussed. However, two sections of the minutes, one related to its petrochemical plant and another on unconventional gas, have been kept secret.

Sarah Boyack, Labour's environmental justice spokeswoman, said: "Given Jim Ratcliffe has already stated that businesses had been privately reassured by ministers that the SNP Government was not against fracking, it’s crucial that details of this meeting are in the public domain.

"At every turn the Scottish Government is ducking the issue on fracking, hiding behind the moratorium and evidence gathering progress, and now blocking these details."

Ineos insists that fracking, a process that sees narrow holes drilled deep into the earth and water, sand and chemicals injected into shale rock at high pressure to release gas, can be carried out safely and would provide a huge boost to Scotland's economy. However, it is opposed strongly by most environmentalists, who say it can cause earth tremors, pollution and means a continued reliance on burning fossil fuels.

In its response, the Scottish Government said information had been redacted due to regulations regarding internal communications, claiming it would not be in the public interest to release information, and confidentiality of commercial or industrial information.

It added that the meeting with Ineos was "long-planned" and was already in Ms Sturgeon's diary before the parliamentary statement on fracking was scheduled.