PETROCHEMICAL giant Ineos and Aberdeen firm Reach Coal Seams Gas today launch their legal challenge to the Scottish Government’s ban on fracking at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The pair are taking Scottish Ministers to court over their decision to convert a moratorium on the controversial gas extraction technique into an indefinite ban.

Ineos, which owns the Grangemouth complex, is seeking a judicial review of the “unlawful” ban claiming there were “very serious errors” in the decision-making process.

The Scottish Government previously said it made the move in light of “overwhelming” public opposition to technique.

Four days have been set aside for the case to be heard.

A moratorium on fracking had been in place in Scotland since 2015 and last October Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse announced planning regulations would be used to “effect-ively ban” the process by extending the moratorium “indefinitely”.

At the time, he said 99 per cent of respondents to a public consultation backed the ban.

Announcing the legal action in January, Tom Pickering, operations director at Ineos Shale, said: “The decision in October was a major blow to Scottish science and its engineering industry, as well as being financially costly to Ineos, other businesses and, indeed, the nation as a whole.

“We have serious concerns about the legitimacy of the ban and have therefore applied to the court to ask that it review the competency of the decision to introduce it.”

The company, which has two fracking licences in Scotland, said the ban on unconventional oil and gas extraction would result in the country missing out on economic benefits, including about 3100 jobs and £1 billion for local communities.

Environmental charity Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES) last month submitted a public interest intervention in the case, arguing that not only is the ban lawful, the Scottish Government is required to ban fracking to meet Scotland’s legally binding climate change commitments.

FoES lawyers say they believe it is the first public interest intervention granted in the Court of Session on environmental grounds.

Its head of campaigns, Mary Church, said: “We are getting involved in Ineos’s judicial review of the fracking ban in order to put forward crucial climate change arguments in support of the ban that otherwise would not have been heard.

“Our intervention argues that the Scottish Government is required to ban fracking so as to cut urgently greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, in line with legally binding climate targets.

“We are confident the process to ban fracking was robust and fair and hope the courts will find against Ineos.

“A two-year process looked at mountains of scientific evidence that spoke of the risks of the unconventional oil and gas industry to our env- ironment, climate and people’s health.

“There is overwhelming support for the ban from communities on the frontline of this industry, people the length and breadth of Scotland, and almost all the parties at Holyrood.”

FoES is represented by the Scottish law firm Balfour+Manson and Aidan O’Neill QC of Ampersand and Matrix Chambers with input from Leigh Day in London.

Solicitor Sindi Mules, from Balfour+Manson, said: “More than 60,000 people engaged in the consultation on fracking before ministers implemented the ban, with 99 per cent opposed to the industry, demonstrating the tremendous importance of this case. We are delighted to be involved in this intervention, which puts forward important legal arguments on climate change, and trust it ensures a fuller picture of the context around the ban is put before the court.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Out of respect for the integrity of the judicial review process, it would be inappropriate to comment on the case put forward by any of the other parties during an ongoing litigation.”