Michael Gove blames the Greens for rows between Scottish and UK Governments

He said their policies are ‘anti-economic growth’ and ‘impractical’

Michael Gove has launched an attack on the influence of the Greens in the Scottish Government, accusing them of failing to respect the needs of Scotland’s rural communities.

Mr Gove said their policies are “anti-economic growth” and “impractical”, and cited the recent collapse of the deposit return scheme as well as the climb-down over Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs).

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The latter would have seen fishing banned in at least 10 per cent of Scotland’s seas, but the Scottish Government scrapped its existing proposals following a massive backlash from coastal communities. The plans formed part of the co-operation deal between the SNP and the Greens, which was signed in 2021.

Under the co-operation agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Greens, the smaller party received two ministerial positions in the Scottish GovernmentUnder the co-operation agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Greens, the smaller party received two ministerial positions in the Scottish Government
Under the co-operation agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Greens, the smaller party received two ministerial positions in the Scottish Government

Mr Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said the deposit return scheme was “poorly developed” by the Scottish Government. Humza Yousaf’s administration recently delayed the DRS until at least October 2025, blaming the UK Government’s refusal to allow glass in the scheme.

Speaking to journalists in Edinburgh, Mr Gove said: “I think there's a broader issue as well here. Obviously, we work with the Scottish Government and we want to work collaboratively with them.

“But there is a question because a number of things have gone wrong recently – HPMAs, the DRS and also the policy that's been taken until now on North Sea exploration – it's a case of the Greens in the Scottish Government operating in a way that a) isn't pro economic growth and b) doesn't respect the specific needs of either the North East or Scotland's rural and island communities. So, it’s a policy disagreement with the Green party that I have rather than any personal criticism of any individual.”

Mr Gove later added: “I would merely observe that their policies have been as I mentioned earlier anti-economic growth, impractical and in particular they haven’t taken into account the specific needs for the North East of Scotland or the Highlands and islands. I hope they change.”

Michael GoveMichael Gove
Michael Gove

Patrick Harvie, the co-leader of the Greens, said the most “financially damaging and anti-growth policy Scotland has seen in recent times was the disastrous Brexit that Michael Gove championed and co-designed”, adding: “But what Mr Gove really needs to understand is that there is no economic benefit to runaway climate breakdown.”

Mr Harvie continued: “Michael Gove should be acutely aware, now more than ever, that the future of our communities and our economy relies on taking climate action, and taking it today. Presumably that’s why the Conservative Party had glass-inclusive deposit return scheme in their manifesto, before they decided a few newspaper headlines were more important to them than Scotland’s environment.

“This is a government which now routinely derides anyone who cares about climate action as ‘eco zealots’ and instead of listening even to its own climate advisors is passing draconian laws to arrest campaigners. Tory inaction will not only endanger our planet, it also risks missing out on the huge opportunities that the green economy offers – from developing the renewables industry of the future to growing nature tourism, improving bus and rail connections and lowering heating bills through more efficient buildings.

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“I see little hope that the Conservatives will ever stop working against the Scottish Parliament and start working with us to build the fairer, greener Scotland people voted for.”

Mr Gove was in Edinburgh for a conference of council leaders. His comments came as a shopkeeper won a judicial review against Circularity Scotland, the firm set up to administer the DRS, after raising objections to the fees retailers would have faced.

A ruling from Lord Young at the Court of Session found Circularity Scotland had “no statutory power” to set the reasonable handling fee payable under the scheme, and retailers were “not contractually bound” to accept it.

Under the co-operation agreement between the SNP and the Greens, the smaller party received two ministerial positions in the Scottish Government. Its co-leader Lorna Slater led the implementation of the DRS as the circular economy minister.

Conservative MSP Maurice Golden said the ruling was “yet another humiliation” for Ms Slater and her handling of the scheme.

He added: “It has already been delayed countless times due to her incompetence and now yet another aspect of the scheme has been exposed as flawed.

“The ruling that Circularity Scotland lacked the authority to set fees for retailers is yet more evidence of the minister’s dreadful handling of the scheme. What makes it even worse is that she was repeatedly warned about all these problems, yet persisted with her stubborn denials and assertions.”

Elsewhere, Mr Gove dismissed the new independence strategy unveiled by Mr Yousaf last weekend. The First Minister said the SNP would seek to open negotiations on securing independence if it wins the most seats at the next general election. In practice, this would mean using the result to push for a second referendum.

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Mr Gove said: "The First Minister will shape his campaign in the way he wants on behalf of the SNP, but at a general election what we're doing is choosing a UK Government, and a number of issues will be raised by different parties.

"It's a long way out before we have that general election, and the UK Government's position on any form of independence referendum is that when we have so many other challenges to face, that it's a distraction and a diversion from dealing effectively with the economic challenges we face, with improving the NHS, working together to improve education and attract investment."

Mr Yousaf said he would pursue talks with the UK Government “on how we give democratic effect to Scotland becoming an independent nation” if his party wins the most seats in Scotland. He said it would be up to Westminster to decide whether a second referendum should then take place – or whether the election result itself would be enough. However, he said a referendum is still his “Plan A”.



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