A quarter of Scotland has been opened up for drilling as part of Chancellor George Osborne’s new dash for underground gas.

The potentially huge scale of the exploration has stirred fears of contamination, radioactive wastes, climate pollution and explosions.

More than 20,000 square kilometres (7800 square miles), covering the entire central belt and a part of the southwest, have been earmarked by the UK Government for possible exploitation by controversial technologies such as fracking to extract gas from wells dug deep into the ground.

Plans are most advanced in Scotland, where proposals to drill 22 wells to tap the methane gas in coal seams near Falkirk and Stirling are now facing hundreds of objections from local communities.

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Sunday Herald