A public consultation on whether or not to allow unconventional oil and gas extraction (UOG) has been launched by the Scottish Government.
A moratorium on UOG, which includes hydraulic fracking, has been in place since January 2015 with a decision expected to be taken this year on whether or not a full ban should be applied.
The consultation, which will continue until May 31, includes a dedicated website - www.talkingfracking.scot - to provide information about UOG as well as the findings of research commissioned by the Scottish Government.
Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said the Scottish Government has “sought to present impartial, independent information on unconventional oil and gas in order to encourage informed dialogue and debate.”
He continued: “As most of Scotland’s unconventional oil and gas deposits occur in and around former coalfields and oil shale fields in Scotland’s Central Belt, which contains some of the most densely populated areas of the country, as well as in the area around Canonbie, Dumfriesshire, it is vitally important that communities, businesses and interest groups from across Scotland have an opportunity to put their views across.”
Mr Wheelhouse said the responses would be independently analysed before the government makes its final recommendation.
He added: “We will then ask members of the Scottish Parliament to vote on our recommendation, and we will come to a final decision by the end of 2017 on whether or not unconventional oil and gas has a role in Scotland’s energy mix.”
Anti-fracking campaigners, however, argue that the process is bad for climate, public health and is a threat to communities.
Mary Church, from Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Nation-wide resistance led the Scottish Government to call a halt to onshore gas drilling and fracking two years ago. If we don’t turn the current moratorium into a ban, communities across the central belt of Scotland will continue to be at risk from this dirty industry.
“It’s clear there is no place for fracked gas in Scotland’s energy future.”
The consultation Talking “fracking” can be viewed on the Scottish Government’s consultation website http://consult.scotland.gov.uk