CAMPAIGNERS reacted with “delight” yesterday after petrochemical giant Ineos’s legal challenge to the Scottish Government’s “effective ban” on fracking was thrown out by a judge.

Friends of the Earth Scotland head of campaigns Mary Church said of yesterday’s Court of Session ruling: “This 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.

“We are delighted Ineos has lost its challenge to the Scottish Government’s ‘effective ban’ on fracking. It should listen to the people and Parliament of Scotland, who have made it clear there is no support for fracking, and give up on its plans to trash the central belt and the climate.”

Ineos and Aberdeen firm Reach- CSG 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. They asked the Court of Session to declare that Scottish Ministers acted unlawfully in doing so, arguing they exceeded their powers.

However, during last month’s hearing, the Scottish Government’s 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.

“While 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 there is no legally enforceable prohibition. For the reasons set out in this judgment, I consider the Government’s legal position is soundly based and there is indeed no prohibition against fracking in force at the present time.”

Ineos Shale operations director Tom Pickering claimed: “We are in the extraordinary position where a senior judge has effectively concluded that the Scottish Government did not know what it was doing.

“He has ruled that there is no fracking ban in Scotland. We are sure this will be a surprise to all those who heard the First Minister and others repeatedly tell Holyrood the exact opposite. It is for MSPs to decide whether Parliament was misled deliberately or simply through incompetence.”

Scottish Greens energy spokesman Mark Ruskell said: “Scotland doesn’t want or need fracking and the scientific evidence against it is clear.

“Unfortunately, this won’t be the last time big business throws its toys out of the pram when it doesn’t get its own way. However, this, and the failed challenge on minimum pricing by the Scotch Whisky Association, shows communities and action groups can win.”