The Scottish Government has said it will continue to explore the potential for fracking in Scotland despite a vote in parliament in favour of an outright ban.
Labour hijacked an environment debate in Holyrood in an attempt to expose SNP divisions on fracking, forcing an early vote on the gas extraction technology in one of the first tests of the reduced SNP minority Government.
The SNP abstained on all amendments calling for a ban, clearing the way for Labour’s wrecking amendment and effectively making an outright ban the official will of the parliament.
Energy Minister Paul 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 said: “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.
“In doing so, they also potentially reduced this debate on the environment to a bit of a sideshow.
“To be clear, the SNP will abstain on the amendments that have sought to make fracking front and centre on this debate for this reason, above all else: unlike all of the other parties in this chamber our position, we believe, on fracking is clear, unequivocal, coherent and consistent.”
He added: “Let me reiterate this Government’s position, there will be no fracking in Scotland unless it can be proven beyond doubt that it will not harm the environment, communities or public health.”
The Tories earlier called on the SNP to ignore the anti-fracking “left wing cabal” of Labour, the Greens and Liberal Democrats and give its unequivocal support for fracking.
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 jobs is beyond me.
“For the SNP, you need to make your mind up. You’re more indecisive than the Lib Dems.