The SNP have decided to let the public have their opinion on fracking
The Scottish Government said households had until the end of May to have they say on whether to give shale gas drilling the green light.
There is a moratorium on unconventional oil and gas extraction with a final decision made by the end of year.
The move sparked renewed claims Scotland is missing out on an economic boom because of the SNP's "spineless" approach.
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Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse today said he was not setting out a "preferred Scottish Government position or policy".
But the launch comes just weeks after Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham indicated it was heading towards an outright ban.
She told MSPs fracking was not mentioned in a new climate change strategy because "we are not doing it".
'FRACK OFF': Anti-fracking in Protests Wed, January 4, 2017
Fracking, a technique designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock from deep underground. 'Frack Off' is a campaign aimed at stopping the extraction of unconventional resources in the UK.
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Anti fracking protestors rally support from passing motorists outside the County Hall building in Northallerton
Critics of fracking point to the environmental damage and falling house prices
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, involves pumping water at high pressure into rock, forcing it to crack and release gas.
We hope that the launch of this consultation can lead to a reasoned debate
Ken Cronin of UK Onshore Oil and Gas
Its supporters say it can help provide energy for decades to come, boost Scotland's economy and help bring down household energy bills.
But critics claim it could pollute water, decimate house prices, create greenhouse gases and even cause earthquakes.
UK Onshore Oil and Gas chief executive Ken Cronin said: "We hope that the launch of this consultation can lead to a reasoned debate across a wider audience about the future of the onshore oil and gas industry in Scotland."
Supporters of fracking argue that it could provide Scotland with an economic boom
Mr Wheelhouse said ministers would "consider the full range of evidence" before making a recommendation MSPs.
He confirmed Holyrood – where Labour, Greens, and Lib Dems back a total embargo – would be given a vote on the issue.
Tory energy spokesman Alexander Burnett said the SNP had prolonged a decision because it did not want to "lose votes in May's council elections".
He added: "This is another spineless decision by the SNP on the topic of fracking.
"It should be looking at the potential for an economic boom and a more secure supply of power for people in Scotland."
Labour's Claudia Beamish, who has launched a Bill to outlaw the practice, added: "Voters going to the polls in May's important local elections still won't know the SNP's position on fracking.
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