PETROCHEMICAL giant Ineos has lost its legal challenge to the Scottish Government's "ban" on fracking at Scotland's highest civil court.

Ineos and Aberdeen firm ReachCSG took Scottish ministers to court seeking a judicial review of their decision to convert a moratorium on the controversial gas extraction technique into an indefinite, effective ban.

READ: Judge's full explanation for rejecting Ineos challenge to fracking ban

They had asked the Court of Session to declare that Scottish ministers acted unlawfully in doing so, arguing they exceeded their powers and lacked the legal competence to impose such a ban.

However during the hearing in May, the Scottish Government lawyer suggested ministers had simply announced a preferred stance on the matter and the policy-making process on the issue should be allowed to continue.

In his ruling, Lord Pentland found that, as a matter of law, there is no prohibition against fracking in Scotland.

He said the Ineos stance was based on a "series of fundamental misunderstandings of the Scottish Government's position" and refused the challenge.

Lord Pentland said: "The petition is predicated on the proposition that the Scottish Government has introduced an unlawful prohibition against fracking in Scotland.

"Whilst acknowledging that there have been a number of ministerial statements to the effect that there is an effective ban, the Lord Advocate, on behalf of the Scottish Ministers, made it clear to the court that such statements were mistaken and did not accurately reflect the legal position.

"The stance of the Scottish Government before the court is that there is no legally enforceable prohibition.

"For the reasons set out in this judgment, I consider that the Government's legal position is soundly based and that there is indeed no prohibition against fracking in force at the present time."

He said at present there is an "emerging and unfinalised planning policy expressing no support on the part of the Scottish Government for the development or extraction of Unconventional Oil and Gas (UOG) in Scotland".

Summing up his decision, he said: "I conclude that since there is no prohibition against fracking, the petitioners' case is unfounded; their application for judicial review of the alleged ban must accordingly fail."

The Scottish Government welcomed the court's decision.

Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: "As I set out in October, our preferred position is not to support Unconventional Oil and Gas extraction in Scotland, and that position remains unchanged.

"I have repeatedly set out to parliament that we would undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) ahead of finalising that position and that approach has been endorsed by the overwhelming majority of the Scottish Parliament.

"The work to complete the SEA and a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment is currently underway and the findings will be carefully considered.

"In the meantime, a moratorium is in place which means no local authority can grant planning permission and Ministers would defer any decision on any planning application that did come forward until the policymaking process is completed.

"The practical effect of the current moratorium and the policymaking process which is underway to finalise our position is that no fracking can take place in Scotland at this time."

Friends of the Earth Scotland was granted a public interest intervention in the case.

Its head of campaigns, Mary Church, said: "Today's ruling will come as a huge relief to the thousands of people who have fought to stop fracking in Scotland, particularly those faced with the prospect of living near this dirty, damaging industry."