THE petrochemical company, Ineos, is hiring new managers and scientists in London with the “immediate intention” of pushing ahead with fracking central Scotland, the Sunday Herald can reveal.

The £28 billion multinational, which runs plants at Grangemouth, is advertising for a new director, a land manager and geologists to exploit licences granted by the UK government to frack for underground shale gas across hundreds of square kilometres around Falkirk and Stirling.

The company is proceeding despite a Scottish Government moratorium and widespread opposition to fracking from communities and political parties. Its move has prompted furious responses from environmentalists and campaigners.

Mark Ruskell, environment spokesman for the Scottish Greens and the newly-elected MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, accused Ineos of jumping the gun. “Scottish communities have made clear their opposition to this dangerous and unnecessary technology and will be angered to hear that this company is gearing up for drilling,” he said.

“It shows the need for the SNP to come down clearly on the side of communities and turn the moratorium into a permanent ban. The new group of Green MSPs will continue to lead the political fight against fracking and we will increase the pressure on ministers to stop Ineos in their tracks.”

Ineos has advertised in the press and online for six new posts, all to be based in London and paid “competitive” salaries. They are a commercial director, a commercial analyst, a land manager, a land assistant, a geophysicist and an operations geologist.

The advert points out that the company has acquired the rights to petroleum exploration and development licences covering a million acres in northern England and central Scotland. “Our immediate intention is to explore and evaluate the land that these licences cover with a view to enabling future gas production,” it says.

The land manager and land assistant will “develop and deliver a land acquisition strategy that meets the needs of the business,” the advert continues. The jobs will involve “extensive travel across the north of England and central Scotland to meet key stakeholders including landowners, local communities, local politicians, local authorities and regulators.”

According to Andy Rowell, director of the monitoring group, Spinwatch, the adverts were “part of a clear strategy to remorselessly pursue unconventional gas extraction across the UK, including central Scotland”.

He said: “A key part of the jobs advertised is to continue the massive public relations charm offensive Ineos has been on for the last couple of years to try to manage public opinion, and build relationships with planners, regulators and land-owners to secure consent for their commercial plans.”

Mary Church, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, accused Ineos of “bullishly” pushing ahead with fracking despite opposition. “Unlike in the rest of the UK, in Scotland Ineos needs to get permission from every single home or landowner who they want to frack underneath,” she said.

“Given the strong opposition in communities facing fracking, the company’s new land agents will have their work cut out for them. It’s pretty telling that the first of Ineos’s promised fracking jobs are all based in London, bringing nothing to the communities targeted for this dirty industry in Scotland and northern England.”

Donald Campbell, a spokesman for the Broad Alliance of community group opposing fracking, criticised Ineos for “riding roughshod” over threatened communities. “This is not community engagement, this is a farce,” he said.

“It flies in the face of local democracy, of people's hopes and their entitlement to a safe and healthy environment for them and their families in perpetuity. This recruiting process smacks of contempt for local communities, an attempt to wear down resistance to fracking, another twist of the knife in the relentless push for unconventional gas extraction despite a moratorium.”

Gary Haywood, the chief executive of Ineos Shale, stressed the benefits that fracking could bring. “Ineos Shale has been awarded exploration licenses across both England and Scotland, meaning we can develop our business on both sides of the border,” he told the Sunday Herald.

“We are committed to growing our team because this new source of gas offers the UK a once in a generation opportunity to secure much needed jobs, investment and energy security.”

Haywood pointed out that at Grangemouth the decline in indigenous gas from the North Sea meant that the company was having to import shale gas from America. “As North Sea reserves decline further, UK shale gas offers us the real prospect of picking up this slack and helping with the country’s economic and energy needs for years to come,” he argued.

“We are certain that shale gas can be extracted safely, as the Scottish government’s own expert panel has already stated.”