ANTI-fracking campaigns are springing up across East Lothian as concern over possible drilling in the country grows – and leading from the front are a group of “foot soldier” mums.

The mums in Pencaitland have been organising weekly meetings to discuss ways of warning people about the controversial shale gas extraction practice and its impact on their lives.

And they have joined a wider network online, creating “virtual kitchen tables” to plan their opposition to the practice.

Lynn Fraser, from the Pencaitland group, said the driving force behind the action was the energy created during September’s referendum debate.

She said: “I don’t think many of us had been particularly politically active people in the past. What changed that was the conversations women were having around the independence referendum.

“Everyone got a charge from engaging with a subject which they felt directly affected their lives.

“Then came the news that East Lothian was on the fracking map and I think people realised that here too was something that would affect their lives directly for years to come.

“Women wanted to make sure their voices will be heard.

“At first, mums were just talking at the school gates, but people now believe if you want something to happen you have to become the foot-soldiers who will make it happen.” Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is an invasive way to drill shale gas from the ground.

Shale gas is extremely difficult to extract, requiring the controversial fracking technique where thousands of litres of water and sand are pumped deep into the ground to crack the bedrock and release gas and oil.

Environmentalists claim the process risks contaminating ground water, and it has been linked to small earthquakes during experimental drilling near Blackpool.

Last year, the British Geological Society identified a deep pocket of shale gas running through much of East Lothian and the Central Belt, and the UK Government has forged ahead with plans to issues licences to firms wanting to carry out the process.

Westminster has even introduced legislation which campaigners say has effectively taken away homeowners’ rights to object to drilling under their properties.

Last month, an ‘East Lothian Against Fracking’ Facebook page was launched, bringing together the Pencaitland group with a newly-formed North Berwick group and others opposed to allowing the drilling in the county.

Set up by Fiona Frame, it currently has 65 members, of which 50 are female.

Fiona said: “I saw there were various Facebook groups in the UK on the website, but nothing for East Lothian and thought starting one would be a good way to get people’s views. The motivation to find out more about fracking was hearing about the licences that were being awarded, and the speed at which everything seemed to be going. I was alarmed.

“I’m worried about the effects on the land, water, air, ecosystems and animals living within them; the disregard for people’s lives and homes.

“East Lothian gave us John Muir, a man who lived and breathed nature. What would he say if he knew his home county was planned to be defiled in such a way? We should be doing all we can to stop this and get the government told we don’t want it.” The group is now planning a series of public meetings and events to raise public awareness of fracking and its potential impact on communities.

This weekend, members are expected to take part in free training which is being offered to Scottish anti-fracking groups in Leith over how to protest and action which can be taken.