The last couple of weeks have been trying for the SNP as increasing scrutiny is turned towards both our record as a governing party and one that seeks to put the interests of Scotland and its people first.

In this sense, the Scottish Government’s moratorium on underground coal gasification (UCG) is most welcome: there is simply too much unease amongst the public about the consequences of continuing with UCG and other unconventional forms of carbon extraction. There are already some who are trying to definitively conclude the debate but this is not the time for those, like me, who are unsure as to what the long-term strategy should be. This is time for a debate in the best SNP traditions.

There has been a remarkable effort from the beginning, by groups and individuals, inside and outwith the SNP, to highlight the undoubted risks with beginning unconventional carbon extraction. My email inbox has been inundated and I have received presentations and information from many groups, as I know all of my colleagues have too.

This action stands in stark contrast to the energy companies, which have failed to convince that they can frack safely, or as close to being safe as possible. The burden of proof must always be with these companies: asbestos is just one example of a technology that was used without adequate medium or long-term studies into its robustness. When there is potential to damage our environment, it is tempting to come to the conclusion that we should instead focus solely on our undoubted renewable energy potential.

But many I have spoken to in the renewables sector don’t think this vision is feasible. Carbon-based energy, used as a baseload, can give a certain amount of security to our energy supply and it is energy security that has given me most cause for concern. It has also been the missing dimension in the debate. That is why it is incumbent on a party of government, in a country that is a global energy leader and has aspirations to independence, to take energy security seriously.

And it is not only a Scottish issue: access to unconventional carbon reserves could fundamentally alter global security and energy balances, away from the entrenched energy cartels and towards smaller scale producers.

As someone who has campaigned in Parliament to free the imprisoned writer Raif Badawi from Saudi custody, I know the price of subsidising repressive regimes; as a trade union member, I resent subsidising Qatar, with its well-documented abuses of worker rights; and as a gay man I have looked on in horror at the repression of LGBTI people in Russia. As consumers we should ask ourselves if we must permanently be tied to these states at the price of our own energy security. Just as energy companies have yet to convince on security, environmental groups have not been able to provide me with answers on this subject.

Scotland has to think carefully too about getting best value for its money. Is spending £300 million on a pier for imported US shale gas at Grangemouth a wise idea when we have that very resource in the immediate vicinity of the complex? How can we continue ensuring that the poorest in our society can meet their energy needs, at a time when the profiteering of the big six energy cartels has been well documented?

This is why, as an MP, I know this issue will continue to make me think. I know there will be much attention paid to it at the SNP annual conference and I hope those of us who have still to make up our minds will be able to do so without fear or favour. Just as the trade union group, of which I am a member, has advanced its position against fracking, so I hope to hear from those who have the opposite view: that is the responsibility of a governing party.

Fortunately, there already exists a fantastic precedent for the party in the Nato debate. An emotive issue, with fundamental consequences for how we saw ourselves as a party, it was nevertheless conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect, with the conference debate itself impassioned but civil. We must go forward, keep our eyes on the bigger picture, and continue proving to the wider public why we are the party that governs for Scotland.

Stewart McDonald is SNP MP for Glasgow South constituency.