THE Scottish Government has been criticised for extending a fracking licence owned by petrochemical giant Ineos.

Ministers have extended the licence until June 2019 despite an effective ban on the controversial gas extraction technique.

The licence, jointly owned by Ineos and Reach Oil and Gas, covers an area of 400 square km to the south-west of Falkirk in the central belt. Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland said the move added to “confusion” on the Government’s position on fracking.

Last month, Ineos and Reach lost a legal challenge seeking a review of the government’s decision to effectively ban fracking in Scotland, which they argued was unlawful. FoE Scotland’s head of campaigns, Mary Church said the decision to extend the licence was “disappointing”.

She said: “Extending this licence risks adding to the confusion caused by Ineos’s legal challenge and increases the pressure on the Scottish Government to move forward with its decision-making process, legislate to ban fracking and draw a line under this issue for good.”