Future of fracking in Scotland put to public in consultation
Campaigners sat unconventional oil and gas developments could damage the environment.
The Scottish Government has launched a public consultation on the future of fracking in Scotland.
Fracking involves companies drilling underground and then blasting rock with water mixture at high-pressure to release gas.
It has proven controversial as campaigners say it may danger the environment.
The devolved government put in a place a moratorium on any unconventional oil and gas developments in Scotland in January 2015 until further scientific evidence and views of the public were sought.
An independent report into the industry ordered by the Scottish Government in 2014 said the country could have "significant reserves of unconventional oil and gas" and "the regulatory framework is largely in place to control the potential environmental impacts of the production of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland, although there may be gaps to address".
The public consultation will run until May 31.
Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse, said: "As most of Scotland's unconventional oil and gas deposits occur in and around former coalfields and oil shale fields in Scotland's central belt, which contains some of the most densely populated areas of the country, as well as in the area around Canonbie, Dumfriesshire, it is vitally important that communities, businesses and interest groups from across Scotland have an opportunity to put their views across.
"The Scottish Government has a very important decision to make in determining the future of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland.
"Once the consultation closes and the responses have been independently analysed, we will then consider the full range of evidence and make our recommendation."
He added: "In doing so, we will give careful consideration to the extraction methods for both shale oil and gas, and coal bed methane.
"We will then ask members of the Scottish Parliament to vote on our recommendation, and we will come to a final decision by the end of 2017 on whether or not unconventional oil and gas has a role in Scotland's energy mix."
Documents provided to STV News last year show deputy first minister John Swinney met energy firm Ineos, which is interested in developing fracking in Scotland, four times in 12 months.
Ineos has built Europe's largest gas tank in its Grangemouth plant to hold fracked gas from the United States.
Lang Banks, director of environmental campaign group WWF Scotland, said: "Any decision to access more fossil fuel reserves by using fracking would fly in the face of the Scottish Government's much welcomed ambition of securing half of all of Scotland's energy needs from renewables by 2030.
"When given the choice, opinion polling tells us that the public always backs clean renewables over polluting fossil fuels. We are confident that by the end of this consultation the public will give fracking a resounding thumbs down.
"We need to be stepping up action to address the threats posed to people and nature by climate change."