Alister Jack has been accused of “running scared” from the scrutiny of Holyrood MSPs after he refused to attend a meeting of the committee examining the scrapped deposit return scheme.
In a letter last week, the Scottish Secretary rejected an invitation from the Net Zero, Environment and Transport committee – convened by a Scottish Conservative MSP – to give evidence on his decision to refuse a full exemption to the internal market act for Scotland’s recycling scheme.
The scheme was set to see a 20p charge added to the cost of canned and bottled drinks, which would be returned if the drink was recycled, but minister Lorna Slater faced increasing calls to scrap the scheme.
It was indefinitely paused following the decision of Mr Jack to issue a limited exemption to the internal market act which would not allow for the inclusion of glass in the scheme, causing a major constitutional row.
Scottish Green MSP, Ross Greer, speaking in a debate on the ‘protection of Scottish Parliament powers’ said the Scottish Secretary was “trying to dodge scrutiny”.
He said: “The committee have, understandably, sought a UK Government minister to appear before them since July to explain his actions. But this has been refused, and refused, and refused again.
“Why is Alister Jack hiding? What is he running scared of? Mr Jack is hiding from the truth.
“He u-turned on his own manifesto commitment. He tore up the common frameworks agreed between the UK and devolved governments. He torpedoed Scotland’s DRS using his undemocratic powers under the IMA and now he is trying to dodge scrutiny by Scotland’s elected representatives.”
In his letter to the NZET committee, Mr Jack said it was for Scottish ministers to answer questions on the deposit return scheme.
He said: “As I am sure you can also appreciate, the UK Government would expect Scottish Government Ministers to answer questions of a Scottish Parliamentary committee on devolved policy areas, including explaining the readiness of their DRS, how the scheme in Scotland will be implemented, and how it will support interoperability across the UK.”
A spokesperson for the NZET committee said: ‘The Committee discussed the Secretary of State for Scotland’s most recent letter to the Committee at the end of today’s meeting and plan to write to him again shortly.’
A UK Government spokesperson said: "We continue to work with the Scottish Government, and the other devolved administrations, to develop an approach to making deposit return schemes across the UK interoperable so there is a simple and effective system for businesses and consumers. We will update stakeholders, including the committee, as plans develop.
"The UK Government remains unwavering in its commitment to improving the environment, whilst also upholding the UK’s internal market.”