OPPOSITION to fracking is "not logical" if coupled with support for offshore oil and gas, a think tank has said.

Reform Scotland said the unconventional energy technology, which involves onshore drilling to release gas, can be developed safely under the supervision of a robust regulator.

The Scottish Government has imposed a moratorium on fracking pending further scientific tests and consultation with the public. The Conservatives said Reform Scotland has highlighted the SNP's "ludicrous position" on the potentially lucrative industry.

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Labour and the Greens urged the Scottish Government to escalate its moratorium to an outright ban - insisting Scotland does not need another fossil fuel industry.

Dr Stuart Paton, an adviser to the oil and gas industry and former chief executive of Dana Petroleum, produced the paper for Reform Scotland to outline the potential economic benefits of fracking.

The decommissioning of two nuclear power stations in Scotland will create an energy shortage, he argued, and fracking, particularly in central Scotland, and new nuclear capacity would help to fill this gap.

Ineos, one of Scotland's most influential companies, is keen to begin fracking having acquired exploration licences across the Central Belt but has so far seen its efforts thwarted by the moratorium.

Dr Paton said the Scottish Government's energy policy contains "a number of contradictions". He added: "The Scottish Government has a commitment to zero emissions from electricity generation by 2020 yet an outright rejection of nuclear power and continued support for a coal power station at Longannet.

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"The government shows unbridled support for the offshore oil and gas industry but not onshore unconventionals. There is significant potential for unconventional oil and gas development in central Scotland in shale oil and gas and coal bed methane. Ineos, who own the Grangemouth refinery and petrochemical's complex, have acquired interests in central Scotland demonstrating the potential in this area."

Dr Paton concluded that opposition to developing onshore fossil fuel resources is: "Not a logical objection for the Scottish government given its support of the offshore industry."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government is taking a cautious and evidence-led approach to unconventional oil and gas. Our moratorium ensures that no fracking can take place in Scotland."

Scottish Government-commissioned research will be published later this year ahead of a public consultation which will extend into 2017, he said.

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Scottish Conservative energy spokesman Alexander Burnett said: "This is another expert exposing the SNP's ludicrous position on fracking. As he rightly points out, the Scottish Government is happy to take energy from the North Sea and coal plants.

"Yet it rules out categorically the possibility of extracting energy in an unconventional way. Not only does that not make sense, but it risks Scotland missing out on the economic benefit fracking could bring."

Scottish Labour environment spokeswoman Claudia Beamish said: "The science on fracking is clear - we don't need another form of fossil fuel extraction in Scotland. That's why Labour is clear - no ifs, not buts, no fracking."

Scottish Green energy spokesman Mark Ruskell said: "The Scottish Government must legislate for an outright ban on fracking because its vague 'moratorium' policy is clearly giving hope to fossil fuel giants intent on digging up Scotland."