ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners are calling on the SNP to "live up to its rhetoric" and implement a legal ban on fracking.

Scottish ministers are preparing to make a statement to Holyrood on Thursday addressing the controversial process.

It comes two years after SNP energy minister Paul Wheelhouse announced an “effective ban” on the industry.

The Scottish Government’s own lawyers later argued this was “the language of a press statement” during a court case brought by petrochemical giant Ineos.

James Mure QC said ministers had simply announced a “preferred position on the issue”.

A moratorium on fracking has been in place since 2015, and the SNP previously delayed making a final decision on whether to outlaw the industry.

Mary Church, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Ministers must live up to their rhetoric and fulfil the promises of two years ago by committing to a full legal ban on fracking that will put this issue to bed once and for all.

“The effective ban announced two years ago has been exposed in court as having no legal force and was described by the Scottish Government’s own legal team as merely ‘the language of a press release’.

“An expert legal opinion from earlier this year shows that not only is it well within the power of the Scottish Government to ban fracking, but that legislating would be a far more effective way to stop the industry and defeat any further legal challenges from companies like INEOS who want to frack the central belt.

"We are in the middle of a climate crisis, and now is the time for tough decisions to lay the framework for the system change we need to make happen over the next decade if we are to avoid outright catastrophe.

"A full legal ban on fracking will be much harder for a future minority government to overturn and will send a strong signal to the fossil fuel industry that its days are numbered.

"The Scottish Government has announced a climate emergency - it now needs to start acting like it means it.

"That includes taking a much tougher stance with big, polluting corporations, ending its support for new oil and gas and using the powers it has to pass strong laws in the Scottish Parliament to drive the transformative change we need."

The Scottish Government declined to comment ahead of Thursday's statement.