Lorna Slater accused of being 'part-time' minister
Nicola Sturgeon has defended Lorna Slater after the Green was accused of being a “part-time” minister for not wanting to work every day during the crucial COP26 climate conference.
According to correspondence obtained by the Scottish Sun, the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity told officials not to arrange more than "two things in one day" during the crucial climate summit.
The Tories compared her to a “Hollywood diva”. However, the First Minister insisted Slater was an "incredibly hard worker."
Slater and her Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie entered government in August after the party agreed a power-sharing deal with the minority SNP administration.
The new ministerial posts came with a £31,000 pay hike, taking the pair's annual salary to £98,045.
In the email, sent to aides and civil servants ahead of the Glasgow climate summit, Slater said she needed adequate days off, no early starts following a late finish and plenty of time to eat during the conference.
The message read: “The Minister doesn’t want to do any more than two things in a day given there will be other work to do in and around that.
“It may be feasible to do three things in a day if they are all nearby one another and don’t require much preparation.
“Consideration should also be given to any evening events in Glasgow where the Minister may be very late (post 10pm) getting home in which case there should be a later start the following day.
“The Minister commented that she can’t be working 14 days straight — she needs two full days completely off, they don’t need to be consecutive.”
The email said Slater’s programme also needed to be updated to “ensure it factors in meal and preparation time”.
Slater arrived at the summit a week late after she tested positive for Covid.
Tory environment spokesman Graham Simpson said: “This astonishing email reads like the demands of a Hollywood diva, not a Scottish Government minister.
“The future of the planet was on the line, so it defies belief that an environment minister should be putting restrictions on her workload and insisting on days off during this crucial summit.
“Emissions don’t take days off. If she wants to be a government minister, Lorna Slater must grow up and accept the responsibilities that come with the job.”
Scottish Labour’s net zero, energy and transport spokesman Colin Smyth said: “We already knew Green ministers’ jobs were made up, but I hadn’t realised they were part-time.
“This staggering set of rules from Lorna Slater show just how out-of-touch the Greens really are — and how little interest they have in delivering a green agenda.
“The minister’s point-blank refusal to work a little overtime to attend the most important global climate conference in years shreds the last of her environmentalist credentials.
“It looks a lot like the two things Lorna Slater does per day are propping up a failing SNP administration and cashing her ministerial paycheck.”
The First Minister dismissed the attacks. She said: "All my ministers work hard, they’re expected to work hard, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
She added: “Lorna is an incredibly hard worker. I’ve seen that in the time that she has been in the Scottish Government.”
Sturgeon said the comment about wanting two days off was “over the course of a 14-day period”.
The First Minister went on: “All ministers will have different patterns of working to take account of all sorts of things but Lorna and the rest of my ministerial team are hardworking, as the country has every right to expect them to be.”
There was a split in Labour over the Green's requests, with one backbench MSP hitting out at the "macho" criticism of the minister.
Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba tweeted: “It's not ‘making a fuss’ to ask for one day off a week. It's not ‘lazy’ to attend two events a day alongside Ministerial duties,” she tweeted, adding: “If we're serious about encouraging a diverse range of candidates to stand for Parliament, this macho attitude to work has to end.”
The MSP also quoted Robin Cook saying that a politician who doesn’t take any time off risks being “a real liability to the country”.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “All Scottish ministers worked hard throughout COP26 to make it a success.
“In spite of having Covid for the first week, Ms Slater had a busy schedule of engagements and initiatives to demonstrate leadership on the climate emergency here in Scotland, including banning some of the most harmful single-use plastic products.”