Furious deposit return scheme row erupts as Green MSP accuses Alister Jack of 'categorically untrue' statements and of 'inventing processes'
Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer has written to both the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, accusing Mr Jack of lying to Parliament about the scheme and demanding an investigation into his comments.
It is the latest escalation of a row and comes just days after the senior Conservative MP’s decision to write to Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone accusing the Green MSP of misleading Holyrood.
The dispute centres on whether the Scottish Government had to make a “formal request” to the UK Government for an exemption to the Internal Market Act (IMA) as part of the process for progressing the deposit return scheme (DRS).
The Scottish Government claims the process started in 2021 when a “broad” request for an exemption covering both the ban on single use plastics and DRS was made. The UK Government separately claims a “formal” request for DRS alone was only made on March 6 this year.
However, Holyrood sources are adamant there is no such thing as a “formal” request within the processes outlined for an exemption. This has led to a fierce exchange of letters, with Mr Greer suggesting Mr Jack’s claim there was no request for an IMA exemption was “simply and categorically untrue”.
In the letter to Sir Lindsay, the Green MSP writes: “I would like to raise my concern that not only has Mr Jack falsely accused me of misleading the Parliament in which I sit, but has himself evidently misled the House of Commons.
"It is abundantly clear that Mr Jack’s attempts to convince the House of Commons that the Scottish Government had not sought an IMA exemption until March of this year is simply and categorically untrue.
"It is my firm belief that Mr Jack and his Government have used the Brexit process to give themselves a new power of veto over the decisions of Scotland’s elected Parliament via the Internal Market Act. This is a direct attack on Scotland’s democracy.”
He goes on to accuse the Scottish secretary of being “clearly and demonstrably misleading” in his statements to Parliament.
Mr Greer adds: “It is extremely alarming that the Secretary of State for Scotland is not only misleading Parliament consistently, but he has invented a new form of request which sits outside of agreed processes.”
His letter concludes: “Whilst the wider political points are, of course, not a matter for the Speaker, I would urge you to urgently investigate the situation I have described and outline and ask what action you will take in response to Mr Jack misleading the House of Commons.”
In a second letter, sent to the most senior civil servant in Westminster, Mr Case, the MSP accuses Mr Jack of having potentially “unilaterally altered the common frameworks agreed with the Scottish Government”. Requesting “factual clarity” from Mr Case, Mr Greer asks for confirmation that “neither a formal nor an official request for an exclusion from the IMA” is required.
The contested issue of the IMA exemption has increasingly dominated the discourse around the Scottish DRS. Last week, First Minister Humza Yousaf announced the scheme was being delayed again, with its roll-out pushed back from August to next March.
Lorna Slater, the circular economy minister, went on to tell Holyrood that Westminster’s delay over whether to grant an exemption was the “primary” reason for the scheme having “stalled”. She condemned the “chilling effect” of the UK Government’s position, claiming it had deterred businesses from signing up, and accused Mr Jack of having had a “corrosive” effect on the initiative.
In response, the UK Government again said the formal request for an exemption had only been received by ministers in March, and stressed that since the Scottish Government had been “reviewing” the scheme, before ultimately deciding to pause it, it had “not been possible” for it to fully assess the impacts of the exclusion request on cross-UK trade, businesses, and consumers.
Asked to comment on Mr Greer’s letters to Sir Lindsay and Mr Case, a UK Government spokesman said: “UK Government ministers received a formal request for an IMA exclusion for the Scottish Government's deposit return scheme on March 6. There had been no formal request prior to this.
"We will continue to engage with the Scottish Government to realise our shared ambition to improve the environment while meeting the needs of consumers and businesses across the UK.”
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