SNP members have narrowly rejected a bid to toughen up the party’s stance on fracking amid calls for an outright ban.
The strength of opposition among members to the controversial shale gas extraction technique was revealed during a debate at the party’s conference in Aberdeen.
Several speakers called for a motion from the party’s Leith branch, backing the Scottish Government’s moratorium on fracking, to be reconsidered and strengthened.
An effort to remit it back for revision was narrowly defeated by 427 votes to 554 and the motion was ultimately carried.
The debate took place as a YouGov poll for the Times found almost six out of 10 (59%) Scots – and three quarters of those who plan to vote for the SNP in next year’s Holyrood election – are opposed to fracking.
The issue has continued to prove divisive for the party, despite SNP ministers extending the moratorium last week to cover underground coal gasification (UCG).
Jim Ratcliffe, chief executive of Ineos, has urged the Scottish Government not to delay a decision on the technology for too long, saying it offers Scotland a “last chance” to gain economic independence.
The chemicals company was attacked during the debate by members including Iain Black from the SNP’s Forth branch, one of the founding members of SMAUG (SNP Members Against Unconventional Gas), who spoke in favour of the motion.
Mr Black told delegates: “We believe that the evidence and the science absolutely and overwhelmingly supports a ban.
“There’s science and then there’s science that’s paid for by big business with research grants.
“The SNP is about healthy communities, you can’t have healthy communities if you destroy the land, if you destroy the air, if you destroy the water that we drink.
“It’s Scotland’s land, it’s Scotland’s air, it’s Scotland’s water.”
Delegate John Page said the motion was “not good enough”.
He added: “I’m unhappy with this motion, I suggest this motion is remitted and that the SNP comes back and more widely reflects its membership and the wider community.”
SNP ministers have said the moratorium will allow for more research and consultation on the technique, a process which is not expected to be completed until spring 2017.