Scotland has a new gas industry waiting to be developed on its doorstep, leaders of the Scottish National Party have been told.
Algy Cluff, chairman and chief executive of Aim-listed Cluff Natural Resources, has raised the prospect of the huge coal reserves under the Firth of Forth providing a new source of gas for power stations and industry. He has had discussions with Fergus Ewing, the Scottish energy minister, about its potential contribution to the economy.
Energy is one of the central issues in the debate on Scottish independence. The Treasury argues that estimates of future North Sea oil and gas revenues are too optimistic but the emergence of a new gas source has not figured in any calculations. Mr Cluff is emphasising that he is not making a political point and sees the Firth of Forth development providing benefits north and south of the border.
He is due to visit the Grangemouth refinery and chemical complex run by Ineos on Tuesday in an effort to persuade the group to switch from imported shale to using Firth of Forth gas to underpin the long-term future of one of the most important businesses in Scotland.
Mr Cluff has spent the past 18 months setting up the framework for the business and preparing for the start of drilling but has been frustrated by the focus on shale. Mr Cluff, a serial entrepreneur with a North Sea oil and gold-mining background, feels the coal reservoirs under the Firth of Forth and off the Cumbrian coast offer the best initial development opportunities.