The Scottish Government has been urged to ban fracking after a legal opinion indicating it is within the power of MSPs.
Ministers announced an “effective ban” on fracking in 2017. However, a legal challenge was mounted by Petrochemical firm Ineos.
A Court of Session ruling last June found that, as a matter of law, there is no prohibition against fracking in Scotland.
A legal opinion published by Aidan O’Neill QC now suggests that the Scottish Parliament has the legislative competence to pass a fracking ban.
It indicates doing so would be less likely to result in successful legal challenges from firms with an interest in the industry.
Friends of the Earth Scotland, who commissioned Mr O’Neill, say that the Scottish Government must now act to definitively ban fracking.
“Communities on the frontline of this dirty industry have been waiting for over four years for the Scottish Government to bring its long drawn-out process on unconventional oil and gas to an end,” said Friends of the Earth Scotland head of campaigns Mary Church.
“It is time for ministers to live up to their rhetoric,” she said.
A Scottish Government spokesman said further assessments would be required before finalisation of policy on the issue.
“The Scottish Government does not consider new legislation is necessary to control unconventional oil and gas development in Scotland, and the adoption of a strong policy would provide appropriate and proportionate means to regulate such development,” he said.
“The practical effect of the current moratorium, and the policy-making process currently under way, is that no fracking or other unconventional oil and gas activity can take place in Scotland at this time.”
Scottish Labour’s spokeswoman for climate change and environment Claudia Beamish MSP said: “This legal opinion shows Holyrood not only has the powers, but crucially that a ban in primary legislation is the surer way to defeat future legal challenges.”