NICOLA Sturgeon yesterday refused to take a side on fracking as opponents pushed her to rule it in or out.

The First Minister insisted she would continue to take a “cautious” approach to fracking and unconventional gas extraction until all the evidence is in.

The comments came at First Minister’s Questions as she confirmed the timetable for the conclusion of evidence-gathering and public consultation on the subject will be published before the parliament breaks for recess on October 10.

Following a question from Labour’s Sarah Boyack on the release date, Sturgeon said the current moratorium on such practices will last “as long as it takes for this government to have all the information, the health information, the environmental information, the information from public consultation to allow us to take a decision”.

Sturgeon added: “We are determined to lead a precautionary, careful, cautious, evidence-based approach to this. I think that’s what the people of Scotland want.”

Green co-convener Patrick Harvie, who opposes fracking, and Tory Murdo Fraser, who is in favour of it, also pressed Sturgeon on the issue.

She said this illustrated the need for a “sensible” approach, adding: “I have had a question from somebody who wants me straight away to rule it out and now I have got a question from Murdo Fraser who wants me to straight away rule it in.

“Neither approach would be justified because we don’t yet have the environmental, the health and the public consultation information to allow us to base a reasonable, precautionary, sensible judgement on.”

After the session, Boyack accused the First Minister of “hiding behind” the evidence-gathering process.

She added: “The public is clear where Scottish Labour stands on fracking and unconventional gas.

“We want a triple lock to protect communities from proposals and that includes a proper assessment of health environmental and climate risks, learning from experience in the rest of the UK, and giving communities a vote on any proposals.”