Scottish Green minister agreed meeting with former employer despite 'lobbying concerns'

A Scottish Green minister accepted a meeting with her former employer despite official advice warning of potential lobbying concerns if she did so.

Lorna Slater, the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, was told by civil servants that any engagement between her and Orbital Marine Power Ltd would be “open to perception as lobbying”.

Less than a month later, documents show the Green co-leader was “delighted” to accept a meeting with the company.

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However, the meeting did not take place and when asked about the letter, Scottish Government officials claimed it was sent following an administrative error, something not mentioned within the freedom of information response.

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Ms Slater was employed for Orbital Marine prior to her election to the Scottish Parliament in 2021 and worked in the marine renewable energy sector since 2014.

Orbital Marine also recently received £4m in funding from the state-owned Scottish National Investment Bank in July to help finance an “innovative tidal energy device”.

Asked whether the Green MSP’s former employment could cause problems if she met with Orbital Marine, the minister was told the net zero Cabinet secretary, Michael Matheson, should lead on any engagement with the company.

Scottish Green party co-leader Lorna Slater in the main chamber at the Scottish Parliament, EdinburghScottish Green party co-leader Lorna Slater in the main chamber at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh
Scottish Green party co-leader Lorna Slater in the main chamber at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

On November 8 last year, officials said: “Given the closeness of Ms Slater’s past and recent relationship with Orbital Marine (as acknowledged in Private Office’s note) we do not consider, should Mr Matheson be minded to accept the invitation, that the minister should be involved in any such meeting.

"For the same reasons any action, be that internal or external, Ms Slater may take as part of any future interaction between Orbital Marine and the Government is open to perception as lobbying for or advocating the position of the company.

"On that basis we would recommend that Mr Matheson should lead on this correspondence and any future engagement with Orbital Marine.”

Ms Slater was also warned that to “support the tidal industry in Scotland” and work with Mr Matheson, she must “carefully consider[s] the need not to appear to favour her former employer of former business colleagues”.

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A month later on December 14, however, a letter states “Ms Slater would be delighted to accept your kind invitation subject to parliamentary business and diary availability” following an invite by Orbital Marine Power Ltd to discuss their “current activities and future plans”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity pro-actively sought advice on the most appropriate ways to interact with and support the tidal energy sector given her register of interests.

“The minister has at all times followed this advice.

"No meeting between the minister and Orbital Marine took place and the minister did not at any point intend to accept the invitation.”

The Scottish Greens were contacted for comment.

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