SNP leadership avoided a rebellion over fracking yesterday as members backed the Scottish Government’s moratorium by 550 votes to 427.

Members in favour of a full ban on fracking had proposed remitting the motion urging support for the Government’s position, effectively sending the proposal back to the SNP executive and asking them to think again.

Although the motion was defeated there seemed to be very little support for fracking amongst the delegates.

Callum McCaig, the SNP’s energy spokesman in Westminster, speaking in favour of the motion, said he was “personally ambivalent” about the process.

There was a standing ovation for Ian Black from SNP Members Against Unconventional Oil and Gas (Smaug) who argued the motion before conference should advocate a complete ban on fracking.

“The SNP is about helping communities,” he told delegates. “You can’t help communities if you destroy the land, if you destroy the air, if you destroy the water that we drink. There are too many unanswered questions, too many figures out there about cancer rates, about childhood defects and birth defects. The science is clear on these things. We do not need fracking.”

The motion, tabled by the party’s Leith branch, also called for the party to call on the Scottish Government to “consider extending the current moratorium on fracking to include the technologies used in underground coal gasification and unconventional gas extraction.”

McCaig said the party and the Government had to go through the correct procedures.

“But what I would like to see is a full analysis of the whole remit of this contentious issue being done from a source I can trust,” he said. “And conference, it will perhaps be no surprise to you that I trust our Government to do this and to do it correctly.

“We should not be ashamed at going through this in minute detail to make sure we come out at the right decision.”

Tony McAndles said the purpose of remitting the motion was for the Scottish Government to “make a stronger recommendation to ban fracking”.

He added: “The resolution as it stands is not strong enough and it’s been exploited by people claiming to be our partners in the run up to the referendum. I am sick to death of Green Party members telling me that the SNP supports fracking. It does not. It’s membership does not.”

McAndles ended by warning Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe that “1,400 jobs at Grangemouth will not be held hostage” by the company, “blowing our country to pieces.”

Tommy Sheppard, the party’s MP for Edinburgh East and a long time opponent of fracking and underground coal gasification spoke in favour of the motion, claiming that any review or scientific study into fracking would ultimately lead to a ban.

“I believe that having looked at the evidence myself the only logical conclusion we can to is that fracking and UCG should have no part in a balanced energy policy of the future.”

Sheppard urged conference to back the motion, adding: “There is big money and very powerful interests in this debate and if we do not get the decision absolutely correct and beyond challenge then they will do everything they can to frustrate that.”

The vote, first done by a show of hands, was too difficult to call for the chair, who asked for a physical count of delegates. In the end it wasn’t that close with delegates supporting the Government’s position with a majority of 123.

The debate came as a poll for The Times showed 59 per cent of Scots backing a complete ban. Ineos are on a major charm offensive on SNP members in Aberdeen and have supposedly spent £4,000 on a stall at the conference.

Speaking after the debate WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said it was clear, the “vast majority of SNP members actually want a full ban on fracking.”

Mhairi Black: Divide and rule tactic lets the Tories deflect attention from their own shortcomings

SNP conference diary

Victory for Our Land campaign and members as land reform motion is rejected

Jim McColl's Ferguson shipyard wins £97m CalMac ferries deal

John Swinney: Councils will have the power to cut business rates

The National View, October 17: A good day for SNP members as party is made to think again