HOLYROOD'S new cohort of MSPs were welcomed to the first day of business at Holyrood by protestors calling for a total ban on fracking.

A series of anti-fracking organisations were represented outside the parliament's Queensferry House entrance, including an internal SNP pressure group which wants the party leadership to take a tougher stance against Unconventional oil and gas extraction.

Fracking is set to become a prominent issue in the new term, with a moratorium to end next year and the Scottish Government to decide whether to allow it or not.

Herald View: Sturgeon must come clean on fracking

Labour, the Greens and Liberal Democrats favour a full ban, citing environmental concerns, while the Tories would give fracking the green light, saying it would provide jobs, a secure energy source and boost the economy.

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The SNP remain on the fence officially, although Nicola Sturgeon hardened her stance in the recent election campaign, saying it would not be allowed if there is "any suggestion" it harms the environment.

Diane Burn, a member of the SNP Members Against Unconventional Oil and Gas group, was one of around 30 people who took part in the protest. She said: "We would like to put our trust in Nicola Sturgeon but we can't assume the right decision will be me made, so this is about making sure.

READ MORE: Greens urge Nicola Sturgeon not to soften stance on fracking

"A lot of the SNP members, as we saw at the autumn conference, are united against this and there's a strong feeling within the party membership, so we're just hoping."

Maria Montinaro, a community councillor based in Falkirk, one of the areas that could be affected by fracking, said if the technique is to be given the go-ahead thousands of wells would be drilled across Scotland's heavily-populated central belt.

She said: "We need to make sure the Government take the side of the communities. This is to remind the politicians of the strength of feeling."

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon has 'taken flight from reason' over fracking with 'anti-science' statements, expert claims

Earlier this week, Ms Sturgeon came under fire from a former advisor who claimed that she had "taken flight from reason" after hardening her stance against fracking. Previously, the SNP had said it would not pre-empt the results of new research that it ordered when calling the moratorium. An earlier Scottish Government study concluded that fracking could be conducted safely and offer an economic boost.

Professor Paul Younger, who was part of the original taskforce, said the SNP "need not be surprised when any scientist who respects the most basic norms of professional integrity" refuses to work with its ministers in future.