A COMPANY behind plans for fracking in Scotland expects the controversial practice to be approved despite Nicola Sturgeon’s opposition to it.
The First Minister has hardened her stance against the drilling technique used for extracting oil or natural gas from deep underground, stating that she is “highly sceptical”.
However, the owner of the Grangemouth petrochemical plant, which has acquired full fracking rights for large parts of Central Scotland, said it expects to go ahead with its plans, for which it has already devoted tens of millions of pounds to acquire licences.
The declaration from Ineos sparked concerns that rival companies will pursue fracking elsewhere, such as in parts of the Lothians.
Plans from Ineos come on top of those from Cluff Natural Resources and Five Quarter, which have five underground coal gasification licences from the UK government between them for different areas of the Forth, including one off Portobello and Musselburgh.
Alison Johnstone, Scottish Greens Lothian list candidate, said voters would be alarmed be the intervention from Ineos ahead of the Holyrood election.
She said: “Constituents across Scotland will be massively concerned and want to make sure that this doesn’t go ahead.
“Concern about the issue is overwhelming and the Scottish Government has to give a strong lead on it now that we have the powers from the Scotland Bill to stop fracking.”
The Scottish Government has currently placed a moratorium on fracking until it carries out a scientific study.
Sarah Boyack, Edinburgh Central candidate for Scottish Labour, added: “It’s clear that although people are concerned about the environmental and climate impacts of fracking, the SNP government’s moratorium is designed to delay but not ban fracking.
“It speaks volumes that the company which holds fracking exploration licences is confident that it will get the go ahead for fracking next year.”
An Ineos spokesman said the company was taking “at face value” assurances that a final decision would be based on scientific evidence and believes that results of new research would back up a previously commissioned study that concluded fracking can be carried out safely, if properly regulated.
Ineos would pursue fracking opportunities in the Midland Valley of Scotland, which includes the Grangemouth complex and a vast area around it, if the moratorium was lifted and the company was able to secure planning permission on top of the licence it holds.
Ineos also said it would consider expanding its operations at Grangemouth if fracking in Scotland is eventually approved.
An Ineos spokesman, when asked about Ms Sturgeon’s comments on fracking, said: “If you have indigenous sources of gas it makes far more sense to supply your manufacturing industry from that gas.”
An SNP spokesman said: “The First Minister made it absolutely clear last week that unless it can be proven beyond any doubt by the scientific evidence that there is no risk to health, the environment and our communities then there will never be fracking in Scotland.”