ENVIRONMENTAL groups are calling on the Scottish Government to work towards a ban on fracking “as soon as possible” as it prepares to publish its evidence on shale gas fracking and coalbed methane.

It put in place a moratorium on unconventional oil and gas in January last year, which was extended in October 2015 to cover underground coal gasification (UCG). It also commissioned a Public Health Impact Assessment and studies on climate, economic and transport impacts, seismic activity and decommissioning. These will form the basis of the evidence it publishes today.

In September, Jim Ratcliffe, founder and chairman of petrochemical giant Ineos, welcomed the first shipment of shale from the US to the company’s Grangemouth complex, in a carefully managed media event.

Ineos said access to the cheap US shale gas would transform the economics of Grangemouth. It added that the creation of a chemical and manufacturing hub around the plant could pass that competitive advantage on to others.

The company also signed a long-term supply deal with the Exxon Mobil/Shell ethylene plant at Mossmorran in Fife. And a pipeline will carry ethane from Grangemouth to Ineos’s plant in Hull.

Ratcliffe admitted then that the industry was “not perfect” and there would be the “occasional” environmental issue, but he added that shale gas had helped to secure 10,000 jobs.

However, on the eve of the Scottish Government statement, campaigners at Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES) urged the Scottish Government to recall its climate commitments, the precautionary principle and the serious concerns of local communities, and work towards a ban on fracking and coalbed methane as soon as possible.

FoES head of campaigns Mary Church said: “We expect the research gathered by the Scottish Government will echo the growing body of evidence that documents the negative impacts of fracking on communities.

“As the Paris Climate Agreement entered into force last week with its commitment to keep warming under 1.5C, a radical change in our energy systems is needed.

“Nations must commit to leaving fossil fuels in the ground and we hope that the Scottish Government will put climate change at the forefront of its decision-making on fracking.”

Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, added: “Any considered review of the evidence should lead to the conclusion that there is no place for fracking in Scotland’s energy future. The climate science is clear, the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground. There is overwhelming public opinion in favour of cleaner forms of energy and a sufficient body of evidence on why unconventional oil and gas are neither good for people or the planet.

“Scotland should instead be playing to its natural advantages in clean, green renewable energy and capitalising on the jobs, climate benefits and health improvements a zero carbon future can deliver.”

Claudia Beamish, Scottish Labour’s environment and climate change spokeswoman, said: “The SNP should use the opportunity today to back Labour’s plan to ban fracking in Scotland.

“The climate change science is already irrefutable; we don’t need another fossil fuel and we shouldn’t lock ourselves into relying on one when we need to be moving on to clean energy.

“If we want to leave our planet in the right condition for our grandchildren then we need to take responsibility now and outlaw fracking.”