The Scottish Government has deleted a statement backing plans for underground coal gasification (UCG) from its website after a complaint from an environmental campaigner.

The statement of support for the contoroversial gas extraction technique was in a section of the site entitled Cleaner Coal Technologies, as revealed today by investigative website The Ferret.

It said: “Alternative mining technologies, such as underground coal gasification, are attracting interest both globally and from a number of developers in Scotland. The Scottish Government are supportive of such innovative technologies which offer the potential for a secure, economic and low carbon energy store.”

The statement went on to explain that the first licence for UCG in the UK had been awarded off the coast of Fife, adding that the move was a “positive step in the development of UCG technology”.

But critics of new fossil fuel extraction techniques claimed this is evidence that the Scottish Government's moratorium on fracking and UCG is merely a “cynical delaying tactic” to allow politicians to avoid making a final decision until after the Scottish Parliamentary elections next May.

The statement was spotted - and copied - by a campaigner in Ireland, Geraldine Ring, who runs the @frackfreemps Twitter account.

It was removed after she complained about the apparently contradictory policy positions being promoted by the Scottish Government.

Ring said: "I spotted the statement on their website, on Tuesday October 20. And although I'm not Scottish or even British, I've been paying close attention to developments in Scotland. I came across the UCG page on the Scottish Government website following a conversation with a Scottish friend who believes there's no reason to hold your government to account on this issue."

"I didn't check the website again until October 26 when I noticed the page had been deleted. It wasn't until a few days later that I received a reply from the Scottish government to my email.”

In response, the Scottish Government said that its statement supporting was removed due to its “historic nature”.

It added: “The Scottish Government is committed to open and accurate communication: the information to which you have referred has therefore been removed from the website due to its historic nature. This action was necessary to ensure that the website correctly reflects the Scottish Government’s position on UCG.”

"The accuracy of the information we present is an important aspect of our commitment to open and transparent government. In line with this commitment, the Scottish Government has carefully considered the views being expressed on UCG.”

"On 8 October the Scottish Government announced a moratorium on UCG. This moratorium is in line with the cautious, evidence-based approach we have taken towards unconventional oil and gas, and will allow us to carefully examine this new technology and the issues concerning communities.”

However, environmental groups also criticised the Scottish Government.

Billy McChord, of Stirling Against Unconventional Gas Development, said: "This report from the Scottish Government's own website stating that "the Scottish Government are supportive of such ...technologies" will only serve to confirm the fears of many communities.

"It would appear that contrary to the mood music emanating from Government ministers at Holyrood, that the moratorium is merely a cynical delaying tactic, postponing the desecration of our environment and risking the public health of our citizens until after the Holyrood election in May 2016.”

Juliana Muir, founder of another campaign group opposed to UCG called Our Forth, said: "Communities like ours are completely opposed to underground coal gasification, as a recent survey by our community council has proved with over 90 per cent opposition in Portobello.”

Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: "Whether it's Energy Minister Fergus Ewing asking us not to close our minds to experimental drilling, or First Minister Nicola Sturgeon suggesting research is better than saying no to developing coal gas, the SNP have consistently attempted to fudge this issue.”

"UCG remains a distraction from the real opportunities Scotland has to create good jobs in energy efficient housing, renewables and oil and gas decommissioning."