The fracking licence held by petrochemical giant Ineos has been extended for another year by Scottish ministers.
Opposition politicians attacked the move, which came despite the Scottish Government claiming that it supports a ban on the controversial technique for extracting shale gas.
The extension of the license was confirmed in a letter from Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse to Orkney MSP Liam McArthur, who is the Lib Dems’ energy spokesman.
Mr Wheelhouse’s letter said: “Following consideration of a request submitted by the licencees I have decided, for the second year, to extend the initial term of the licence for a further 12 months.”
Mr McArthur said: “This is not reassuring news for those whose property sits on or near sites potentially earmarked for fracking, or indeed anyone who cares about protecting our beautiful natural environment.
“Ministers are dragging their feet on a real legislative ban and it is sending completely the wrong message when we should be committing to an all-out assault on Scotland’s emissions.”
The Scottish Government’s “ban” was called into question last year when the Court of Session concluded the practice was not actually outlawed.
Mr Wheelhouse’s letter added that the government’s “preferred policy position is not to support unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland, and that preferred position remains unchanged.”