A LEADING environmental charity has hit back at one of Scotland's largest private companies as a bitter war of words over fracking escalated.

Dr Richard Dixon, the director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said that chemical giant Ineos was showing signs of "desperation" after it emerged that the company planned to take a more robust stance against its opponents.

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Ineos, which owns fracking explanation licences across central Scotland and is hoping a moratorium will be lifted next year, accused its opponents of hypocrisy and scaremongering over unconventional oil and gas, naming Dr Dixon, one of his colleagues and the Scottish Green party in an outspoken attack.

It claimed critics had been "blinded" by an anti-fossil fuel agenda, while issuing public statements that flew "completely in the face of the facts."

However, Dr Dixon, in a letter published in today's Herald, said he believed Ineos had been "thrown into a tizzy" after a Holyrood vote in favour of banning fracking was passed and said he was prepared for more "tedious attacks" in future.

He added: "The company’s previous attempts to convince local people were not a notable success with a series of difficult public meetings across the Central Belt in spring last year.

"Its new offensive is a clear sign of desperation. Ineos knows that the Scottish Government’s forthcoming studies looking at health, climate change, earthquakes, house prices and traffic impacts are going to turn up the same kind of evidence that has led to fracking being banned in countries and regions across the world, with Germany the latest to ban shale gas fracking just last month.

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"It also knows that the Scottish population is massively against its plans to drill 1,400 fracking wells across the Central Belt, and Ineos is almost certain to be on the losing side in the big public consultation that will take place in the winter ahead of a government decision in the spring."

Ineos, which is to start shipping shale gas from America to Grangemouth in September, has challenged opponents to explain how relying on foreign gas imports is more environmentally or ethically sound than exploiting domestic reserves or, alternatively, to explain how society can reduce its reliance on gas.