If the First Minister is making any early plans for new years’ resolutions, high on her list should be a pledge to be more open about fracking. Already we have had concerns about secret talks with industry leaders and internal pressure in the SNP forcing ministers to include underground coal gasification (UCG) in the existing fracking moratorium.

The Scottish government says that by putting a hold on developments, it is taking an evidence-based approach. Notably, it did not take this approach with its GM foods ban, which it justified on the basis that to do otherwise would be “gambling with our clean and green brand”.

No wonder the SNP’s opponents are pushing for more clarity. With fracking a key concern for voters, it is concerning that the government’s environmental regulator has been working closely with Westminster’s pro-fracking Department for Energy and Climate Change, apparently to help build a case for unconventional oil and gas extraction.

As reported in our sister paper The Sunday Herald, The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has produced internal ‘scoping’ reports which discuss the potential dangers of UCG, including pollution, earthquakes and “uncontrollable” fires, and which warn some risks are simply unknowable.

But these concerns only emerged as a result of freedom of information (FOI) requests. As we report today, SEPA has also been working with UK government bodies to develop public lines explaining away the concerns. Worse, further FOI requests are likely to be fruitless as the two bodies have agreed future meetings will be unminuted.

SEPA insists it is neutral. That is not the appearance given when meetings are held in secret and risk assessments left unpublished. Ahead of the 2016 Scottish parliament elections, Scottish voters must have transparency about the advice the SNP Government has received on this key issue and the policies it plans to pursue. Rival parties should pledge to be equally open.