PETROCHEMICAL giant Ineos community engagement event in Cumbernauld turned into a heated exchange last night when the company admitted it would go ahead with fracking regardless of whether communities were in favour.

Tom Pickering, operations director for Ineos, spoke to an audience of around 200 people at Greenfaulds High School in Cumbernauld from 7pm.

One audience member asked if Ineos owner Jim Radcliffe would hold the Scottish Government to ransom over fracking as he did with Grangemouth.

Mr Pickering said: "One thousand three hundred jobs still exist at Grangemouth. The problem was that it wasn't competitive.

"The issue was the cost of importing gas. It's cheaper to import it from the east coast of the US, build the infrastructure to import it and the costs of importing it than buying gas within Europe."

One question directed at the Ineos panel, which was met with rapturous applause and cheering from the audience, asked why Ineos felt it had to bribe communities.

Mr Pickering added: "We think that there's a benefit that should be shared with local communities. I hate to put it like this but you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't."

The room erupted for a second time when an audience member said: " You can't guarantee safety yet you want to frack across the central belt of Scotland, the biggest population area in Scotland. Shame on you."

Mr Pickering replied: "The US is extraordinarily different state by state and some of those states didn't have regulations in place. They used old wells and re-injected water but we will not do that in Scotland."

When asked if communities being overwhelmingly against fracking would impact the company's decision, Mr Pickering responded: "We think it can be done safely and we will explain what we're doing at every stage.

"The system is there to determine if it's safe. If it was there to determine if it's liked I doubt very much would get done."

The Grangemouth company currently holds a licence to frack an area of 127sq m, which includes Bishopbriggs and Cumbernauld.

It has come under fire in recent months from anti-fracking groups which branded promises to give a percentage of their profits to local communities as a "bribe".

A demonstration took place in Bishopbriggs on Monday before the Ineos presentation with around 60 locals taking part.