The suggestion that fracking, like the asbestos industry, could poison workers is frightening.

We can’t yet know whether the claim is true. But the idea that another industry promising jobs and riches in the industrial heartlands of Scotland could turn out to be a killer should be enough to make one pause for thought.

The fracking industry calls it scaremongering, just like the asbestos industry did of old. But as we report today, there’s evidence from the US that the hazards are real, and will require very tough regulation to reduce.

The risks are one of the many factors that Scottish ministers will have to take into account when they start actually deciding what to do about fracking. They’ve had a moratorium in place for nearly two and a half years, and their public consultation is due to end on Wednesday.

From what we understand, the choice now facing ministers is not whether to ban fracking, but how to ban it. Do they just continue the moratorium for, say, ten years? Do they say they are ruling it out for the foreseeable future? Or do they legislate to rule it out forever, as Scottish Labour’s anti-fracking bill seeks to do?

Any permanent ban must be backed by science, however, not scare-mongering. Job creation and energy cannot be put at risk by phoney fears. However, if the fears are real then public health trumps everything.

If fracking is dead in the water then Scotland must get to grips with a modern energy programme immediately - phasing out dirty carbon and focusing on a 21st century mix of nuclear and green.

A ban, though, would make powerful enemies. The petrochemical giant, Ineos, based at Grangemouth will not be happy.

As well as running major plants and bidding to frack central Scotland, Ineos has been buying up key North Sea oil and gas assets. It has become, according to its own account, “the biggest private enterprise operating in the North Sea”.

The influence it will try to exercise over Scottish ministers will be formidable. Our elected representatives will need all the courage of their convictions to resist, but resist they must. The interests of a multinational are not the same as those of a small, progressive nation which needs a wise energy policy to safely deliver warm homes and an efficient economy without wrecking the planet or endangering the lives of the public.