Ineos has acquired fracking exploration licences across 700 square miles of central Scotland

Fracking 'could give Scotland independence from England'

Scotland should embrace fracking in order to gain economic independence from England according to the chief executive of chemicals company Ineos.

Jim Ratcliffe made his comments prior to a debate on the issue held today by the Scottish National Party (SNP) at its conference in Aberdeen, where party members narrowly rejected a bid to toughen up the stance on fracking amid calls for an outright ban.

Ineos has acquired fracking exploration licences across 700 square miles of central Scotland.

In January, the Scottish Government introduced a temporary ban on granting consents for onshore unconventional oil and gas, including fracking, whilst further research and a public consultation is carried out.

In addition, it was announced last week that the policy would be extended to cover underground coal gasification.

Writing in the Scottish Sun, Ratcliffe appealed to the Scottish Government not to delay a decision on the technology for too long, arguing that shale gas would be "crucial" to Scotland's future as North Sea gas runs out.

"Shale gas is Scotland's best and last chance to gain economic independence," he said. "We respect the Scottish Government is deep in thought over fracking. It's an important decision for the country to take. But take too long and the opportunity will pass by.

"England is now moving forward with shale and it would be a tragedy for Scotland if they end up taking the lead in this exciting industry, securing the jobs and investments. It could mean that the north-west of England becomes the next Aberdeen, rather than our central belt.”

"Shale gas will generate jobs and help secure manufacturing. It will encourage investment. It will help communities through our scheme to give locals 6 per cent of proceeds.”

SNP ministers have said the fracking moratorium will allow for more research and consultation on the technique, a process which is not expected to be completed until spring 2017.

Fracking has remained a divisive issue among members of public. Recent research has demonstrated that women who live near fracking sites have a higher chance of suffering from premature births and high-risk pregnancies. 

The latest quarterly assessment by the Department of Energy and Climate Change in August showed that public support for fracking has dropped to an all-time low with only one in five people in favour.

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