PEOPLE in Scotland “don’t have the facts” when it comes to fracking and read “scare stories” in the media, according to a boss of petrochemical giant Ineos.

Gary Haywood, chief executive of Ineos Shale, was speaking as he announced the company was rolling out a major seismic survey this summer to pinpoint prime sites for fracking across parts of northern England, where it holds licences.

“We did events in Scotland when we talked to 5,000 people but found that they don’t have the facts and read scare stories in the press,” he said.

“We are in this for business so people will be cautious about believing what we will tell them.

“We would say listen to the arguments and listen to the independent bodies like the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering.”

Speaking about opposition from the SNP and its moratorium on developments involving unconventional fossil fuels, Haywood said he was worried that fracking was becoming a “political football, which won’t be good for the industry in Scotland”.

He said Ineos had “fired the starting gun” on its fracking programme in England by pressing ahead with plans to lodge test drilling applications by the end of the year.

Ineos Shale is looking to set up meetings with councils across Cheshire, Yorkshire and the East Midlands in the coming weeks in a bid to tackle public concern in areas close to potential exploration sites.

Haywood said: “We are firing the starting gun on our programme.

“Up until now, the 3D seismic data that has been shot in England covers around 400-odd kilometres. Over the next 12 months we hope to top that by shooting more seismic data than has ever been shot in the UK.

“We are ramping up the level of activity quite significantly to see if the geology is suitable for the industry in the UK. The economic benefits will be substantial, if the rocks are suitable and it’s successful.”

Ineos Shale emerged as one of the biggest players in the UK’s nascent fracking industry when it won 23 licences in the government’s 14th licensing round. It has vowed to invest £650 million to establish 30 wells.

Haywood added: “We think the next one to two years will be very important for determining what the potential is for shale in the UK.”

He said Ineos will carry out its seismic survey in the summer, before lodging planning applications for core drilling at the end of the year.

It expects to press ahead with this process – which establishes whether a site is viable for fracking – in 2017, before submitting a planning application to carry out test fracks at the beginning of 2018.

A spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “Shale gas wannabes Ineos are stooping to a new low in patronising communities facing fracking in the central belt of Scotland. Despite Ineos’s best efforts, communities haven’t swallowed whole their glossy brochures but are informing themselves instead.

“As the mountain of evidence about the detrimental health and environmental impacts of fracking continues to grow, so does the number of communities around the world, here in Scotland and in northern England who are organising to resist this dirty, unnecessary industry.

“Faced with the evidence of negative impacts from around the world, its hard to see how the Scottish moratorium process could lead to anything other than a ban on fracking. A ban on fracking in Scotland would not only protect communities here, but support the growing momentum against the industry in England, and overseas.”