By Tom Pickering

Shale gas will be top of the agenda at the SNP conference in Aberdeen, so that’s why we are manning a stand and hoping to speak to as many of the delegates as possible about this important issue for the future of Scotland.

The SNP has set out a clear path that there will be no shale gas extraction in Scotland until it can be assured that this can be done safely and will not damage the environment. It has said it wants to follow a science-based approach and will consult widely and, at Ineos, we back this plan.

To support this approach, Ineos has spent the last year visiting and talking to communities across Scotland. We have met thousands of people.

We have found they are engaged by this issue. Some are passionately opposed and some are passionately in favour because they see the potential economic and social benefits. Most simply don’t know but they all say they want to be reassured on safety.

Fortunately, we know shale production is safe and we take time to explain why to everyone we meet. In addition, the Scottish Government’s expert panel has concluded that shale production is safe if best practice is followed.

The view is also supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering, The Royal Society and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.

Unfortunately, misleading films such as Gasland have fuelled people’s misconception of fracking. Pictures of US residents apparently setting light to their water taps have created a real hysteria but it’s important to acknowledge that this film has been discredited with a Forbes magazine article saying: “The scene though attention grabbing is widely inaccurate and irresponsible.”

It’s also important to note that, over the years, US shale gas technology has been dramatically upgraded and safety standards have improved. The UK is set to have one of the tightest regulatory regimes in the world.

As Ineos is one of the biggest manufacturers in Britain, responsible manufacturing, safety and environmental integrity are at the heart of everything we do. We believe we can deliver this essential industry in a way that will greatly benefit the people of Scotland whilst also protecting the environment.

To Ineos, the renewables industry is not the enemy; it is a key customer of ours as we provide gas-based products vital to both the wind and solar industries.

This is not a simplistic choice between investing in renewables and investing in gas. But we will need gas to provide energy as renewables will not be able to guarantee the base load for the foreseeable future. Gas is also an essential raw material for Ineos and provides the building blocks for many of the products we make and society needs.

As a Scot who cares about this country, I don’t want us to lose out on this once-in-a-generation opportunity. Aberdeen is seen as the capital of Europe’s oil business and Scotland now has another chance to lead an industry that will create jobs, boost the economy and showcase our fantastic engineers.

As the North Sea declines, Britain is set to import up to 69 per cent of its gas by 2019 from Europe and politically unstable regions such as Russia and the Middle East. It is vital we look at alternative options to fulfil our energy needs and I believe home-grown gas will be the solution to this ever growing problem. Also, it will bring vast benefits to Scotland.

At Ineos, we also understand the importance of the benefits for local communities. I believe the Scottish communities should directly benefit. We have made a promise that communities within the areas that we will operate will benefit not just from our offer to give back six per cent of the production revenues, but also because of the boost to manufacturing jobs that will be created.

But we also know that safety is vital. I have lived in Scotland all of my life, and I would never support an industry that I didn’t think was right for this country. I believe shale production in Scotland can be a safe and vital industry for decades to come; one that will bring substantial economic benefits to the nation.

So that’s why I will be in Aberdeen making the case for shale.