Ineos has launched a court challenge of the Scottish government’s moratorium on fracking north of the border.

The petrochemical firm’s fracking arm, Ineos Shale, has announced that it is seeking a judicial review of what it has described as an “effective ban” by Holyrood on onshore unconventional oil and gas development in Scotland.

Last October the Scottish government announced an indefinite extension to the moratorium on fracking first announced in 2015.

The moratorium has been endorsed by a vote in the Scottish Parliament.

However Ineos has lodged a petition for judicial review on the grounds that the ban is unlawful and that there were ‘very serious errors’ within the decision-making process, including a failure to adhere to proper statutory process and a misuse of ministerial power.

Ineos said millions of pounds it has invested before the moratorium’s introduction in acquiring licences and obtaining planning permissions to construct drilling sites has been rendered ‘worthless’.

Announcing the ban, the company has cited an expert report commissioned by the Scottish government, which concluded that shale gas could be produced safely.

Tom Pickering, operations director at Ineos Shale, said: “The decision in October was a major blow to Scottish science and its engineering industry, as well as being financially costly to INEOS, other businesses and indeed the nation as a whole.

“It also removed at a stroke the potential for the country in these uncertain times to secure its own indigenous energy supply.

“We have serious concerns about the legitimacy of the ban and have therefore applied to the court to ask that it review the competency of the decision to introduce it.”

“If Scotland wants to continue to be considered as a serious place to do business, then it cannot simply remove the policy support that attracted that investment in the first place without proper procedures being followed and without the offer of appropriate financial compensation. In the light of these failings, Ineos as been left with no option other than to raise this legal challenge.”

According to Ineos, Scotland will miss out on an estimated 3,100 jobs as a result of the ban.

Responding to Ineos’ move, Greenpeace UK’s head of energy Hannah Martin said: “This is a desperate attempt by Ineos to overthrow a decision by the Scottish government which enjoyed widespread public support.

“The UK government’s latest figures have shown that the amount of electricity generated by burning gas is expected to halve by 2025, and by then renewables will have overtaken gas as Britain’s main power source. Fracked gas has no place in our energy future, especially in a country like Scotland that’s a world leader in renewable energy.”

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