MINISTERS have signalled they remain “deeply sceptical” about fracking following a vote in Holyrood yesterday in favour of an outright ban.

Paul Wheelhouse, minister for business, innovation and energy, underlined the Scottish Government’s position after Labour, LibDem and Green MSPs won a vote which saw SNP MSPs abstain on the controversial issue.

“We are deeply sceptical about fracking and, through our moratorium, we have ensured that no fracking can take place in Scotland. Our abstention in this parliamentary vote respects and is in line with that moratorium,” said Wheelhouse after the vote.

“We have set out a full research programme to be followed by a full consultation of people in Scotland, so that future decisions on fracking are informed by scientific evidence and the views of the people who live and work here.”

Labour seized on the environment debate in a bid to force an early vote on the gas extraction technology and test the SNP minority government.

The SNP abstained on all amendments calling for a ban, clearing the way for Labour’s amendment and effectively making an outright ban the official will of the parliament. The vote is not legally binding.

Wheelhouse said the view of parliament “will not deflect Government” from its current policy, a moratorium on fracking until it has canvassed expert and public opinion.

He hit out at the stance Labour had taken which he said diverted attention away from wider environment issues.

“I am somewhat surprised and disappointed that Labour thought it appropriate to ignore all of the substance of today’s debate and motion, which had the potential to discuss issues of great importance to the environment,” he said.

“In doing so, they also potentially reduced this debate on the environment to a bit of a sideshow.”

During the session Roseanna Cunningham, the Environment Secretary, said she was “deeply sceptical” about the drilling technique.

“This government is deeply sceptical about fracking, and we have ensured that no fracking can take place by putting in place a moratorium,” she said.

Earlier the Tories called on the SNP to ignore the anti-fracking “left wing cabal” of Labour, the Greens and LibDems and give its unequivocal support for fracking.

Conservative environment spokesman Maurice Golden said: “Fracking will generate up to £33 billion and create up to 64,000 jobs for the UK, according to Ernst and Young.

“For the three amigos, the left wing cabal of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, I say to you that you are out of step with the scientific evidence and with what consumers and businesses want and need.

“I think you need to stop playing politics and start standing up for Scottish jobs. How you can look the unemployed oil and gas workers in the eye while refusing them a new job is beyond me.”

He added: “You need to listen to your own advice, and I quote from your own Scottish Government report: ‘The technology exists to allow the safe extraction of such resources’.”

Labour environment spokeswoman Claudia Beamish said: “Today we will see once and for all which side of the fracking debate the SNP members are really on.

“If they vote against our amendment then they are effectively saying to people that they want to keep the door open to the possibility of fracking and only a vote on an outright ban will show beyond all doubt that the parliament rejects fracking in Scotland.

“So to the SNP I say this, you have a choice. It’s a choice between working with left centre parties like Labour to ban fracking, or working with the Tories to push through fracking in Scotland.”

The Greens and Lib Dems sided with Labour to back an outright ban by 32 votes, effectively overwriting the Scottish Government motion promoting Scotland’s “stunning natural environment” after the SNP abstained on the Labour amendment.

The SNP’s 61 voting MSPs then abstained on the amended motion, and it was subsequently passed with 32 anti-fracking MSPs outvoting 30 pro-fracking Conservatives.

Environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth Scotland welcomed the vote.

Mary Church, head of campaigns, said: “It’s great that the Scottish Parliament has voted to ban fracking and sent this clear message to the government to get on and do it.”