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by Kirsteen Paterson
21 June 2023
Lorna Slater survives vote of no confidence amidst angry scenes

Lorna Slater of the Scottish Greens

Lorna Slater survives vote of no confidence amidst angry scenes

Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) minister Lorna Slater has survived a vote of no confidence amidst angry scenes in the Scottish Parliament. 

The vote took place just hours after circular economy minister Slater revealed that the body set up to run the recycling drive had gone into administration. 

Labour and MSPs backed the no confidence motion tabled by the Tories. 

They were outnumbered by Slater's colleagues in the Greens and the SNP.

Just one SNP MSP, backbencher Fergus Ewing, broke ranks to vote for Slater's removal.

He said DRS was "fatally and irremediably flawed" and Slater "does not enjoy the confidence of business".

The vote came after Slater revealed the collapse of Circularity Scotland in a statement to the Scottish Parliament. 

She called that a "disaster" for its 60 staff but insisted it was the UK Government, not her or the Scottish Government, who should be blamed. 

Defending the Green minister, First Minister Humza Yousaf said the vote of no confidence was timed to "be a distraction" from the previous day's House of Commons vote to sanction ex-PM Boris Johnson for deliberately misleading parliament. 

Tory Rachael Hamilton said the minister – who she described as a “King Midas in reverse”, turning things she touches into “screeching U-turns" not gold – had been a “scapegoat” for SNP failures on wildlife, waste and more. “She was thrown to the wolves and the wolves have had a field day.” 

In an impassioned speech, Slater's Green colleague Mark Ruskell said he was "disgusted" by the "discourtesy" shown to the minister. He said: "This parliament needs more Lorna Slaters and so does this government." 

But Labour's Sarah Boyack said: "We've had months of chaos and grandstanding. This SNP-Green government has now failed to deliver on reuse, recycling, tackling litter and somebody must be held accountable." 

Circularity Scotland had warned it was on the brink of failure even before trade bodies pulled their support for the not-for-profit administrator at the end of last week. 

That came after Slater confirmed the DRS would be pushed back until October 2025 "at the earliest" in a delay related to a dispute between the UK and Scottish governments. 

The Westminster administration wanted the SNP-Green administration to remove glass from the bottle recycling scheme and make other changes to bring it into line with plans for England. However, the Scottish Government refused and, with no detailed plans in place for DRS in England, Slater said it was not possible to agree to follow regulations that have not yet been passed. 

The motion of no confidence was tabled by Tory net zero spokesperson Liam Kerr and backed by the entire 31-strong Scottish Conservative group, with Labour and the Lib Dems also voting for Slater to go. 

A total of 68 MSPs voted against removing Slater, while 55 voted for the motion. 

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said business "lost confidence in the minister a long time ago amid unanswered questions and frustration". He too said there was "an element of the Conservatives deflecting from their own rule-breaking [former] prime minister" in the timing of the challenge, adding: "At the heart of all this is that we have two governments that are both incapable of owning up to mistakes, that deflect blame and for whom cooperation is a dirty word."

In a statement, Ewing said he had warned about DRS problems for two years, adding: "Had the scheme been halted in summer or autumn 2021 as I called for then,  the massive losses now incurred by hundreds of businesses would have been avoided as would the major political damage caused."

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