A FORMER Geology professor from Glasgow University is planning to take legal action against his former employer after they terminated his library and email access just days after he published a research paper that was critical of fracking.

David Smythe, a professor emeritus for the university yesterday announced his intention to take legal action to have his online access to libraries and maps and launched a crowdfunding appeal to pay for legal costs, which had raised £4,435 of his £10,000 target in less than 10 hours.

Glasgow University deny that the decision to withdraw his access was connected to his anti-fracking status. However he claims that concerns were raised that his views clashed with Prof Paul Younger, professor of energy engineering at the University, who has expressed support for fracking and accused him of “pseudo-scientific scaremongering”.

Though University officials insist his access was removed as part of a routine review, emails – released through a Freedom of Information request in June – suggest that the issue of access was only raised after the publication of his article in January this year, giving his affiliation as Glasgow University.

Smythe told the National: “I’m shocked at how the University has done this, and how they’ve just shut me down rather than find out what was going on.

“It’s important that independent research on fracking is carried out and the vast majority of what is currently being done is being funded by the Government or by the oil and gas industry. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a bias but it does raise questions.”

Smythe, has given evidence on behalf of various anti-fracking campaigns, including the South Downs-based Frack Free Fenhurst group and activists against a coal bed methane project in Falkirk, is claiming that the issue is one of freedom of speech and said he was motivated to take legal action on a point of principle, as well as the practical need to access online research materials.

Writing on his crowdfunding page, he added: “We need to demonstrate that Glasgow University cannot suppress views simply because certain of their current employees happen to disagree with these views.

“I am a lifelong member of the College, with rights as well as responsibilities, even though I am no longer an employee. After six months of fruitless negotiation I now have no choice but to take legal action.”

He claims that Sir Crispin Agnew QC, who represented objectors at the 2014 Falkirk coal bed methane planning inquiry, has agreed to take on his case, which he may take to the Edinburgh Court of Session.

Mary Church, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said that it was important to remain vigilant against the influence of the fracking industry.

“It is vital that academics are not silenced for speaking their mind on such an environmentally-damaging technology as fracking,” she added. “The claims of the fracking industry should always be subject to rigorous and independent scrutiny by experts.

“The fossil fuel industry has a long history of throwing its weight around to distort debate and deter critics. Professor Smythe has in past generously donated his time and expertise to those communities on the frontline of the fight against unconventional fossil fuel extraction. It is a testament to this that his own call for support has been already answered by so many people.”

A spokesman for the University of Glasgow said: “Professor Smythe’s email access was terminated earlier this year, as part of a routine review of email accounts in the School of Geographical & Earth Sciences. Professor Smythe left the University in 1998 and, while he retains the title of emeritus professor, he has no continuing practical association with the work of the University.”