LORNA Slater has told a Tory MSP who claimed the firm overseeing Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is "shrouded in secrecy" that he could find the answers to his questions with a “simple Google”.

Slater told MSPs following an urgent question in Holyrood that it would be inappropriate to interfere in the operation of Circularity Scotland as it is a private, but not for profit, company.

Meanwhile, SNP MSP Fergus Ewing likened the firm to “Frankenstein’s monster”.

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The circular economy minister faced questions after it emerged the chief executive of Circularity Scotland was on a £300,000 salary.

David Harris and other executives at Circularity Scotland ltd (CSL) will receive a combined £670,000 in annual wages and fees.

Slater said that the Scottish Government is separate from the company and has no role in setting pay levels or recruiting staff.

The company was set up as a non-profit organisation by the Scottish Government to administer the DRS, an initiative to boost the recycling of empty containers.

Tory MSP Brian Whittle claimed Slater had been “dragged into this chamber week after week” due to secrecy around the firm.

He said: “It took a leaked document for us to find out the extraordinary salaries that are getting paid by CSL because we can't find anything out about CSL because the Scottish Government won't allow us to FOI them, anytime they don't want to answer a question.

“Lorna Slater has made CSL a private company so she doesn't have to be held accountable, [or] admit how badly this scheme has been rolled out.

“Isn't it about time you lifted the shroud of secrecy and allow the Parliament, us parliamentarians to actually understand what is really going on with this DRS scheme?”

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Slater replied: “I've said it before, but I'm happy to repeat it over and over again. Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme is being delivered and funded by industry, an approach that was supported by Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives.

“And that includes the creation of an industry-led scheme administrator.

“Many of the questions that are being answered in this chamber could be answered by a simple Google because CSL has an excellent website, and I would encourage members to look at that if they are unsure of whose the membership make up of a CSL and who their board members are.”

Scottish Labour’s Colin Smyth asked the minister if the chief executive’s salary was appropriate.

The National: Smyth queried the salaries and bonuses of staff at the firmSmyth queried the salaries and bonuses of staff at the firm (Image: Scottish Parliament)

Slater replied: “Circularity Scotland is separate from Government and we have no role in the recruitment of staff or their pay levels.”

Decisions on pay are made by the company’s board, she said, noting that other countries operate deposit return systems in similar ways.

Smyth said Circularity Scotland was only being led by big businesses, rather than small companies, and asked if she had expressed concern over its salaries.

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Amid shouts from the backbenches, she said: “It would be inappropriate for ministers to interfere.”

The Labour MSP added: “The minister needs to learn to answer the questions she’s asked.”

The SNP’s Ewing, a vocal critic of the DRS, said: “Circularity Scotland Ltd is a creature entirely out of control.”

He asked Slater: “Have you not, on behalf of the Scottish Government in creating Circularity Scotland Ltd, created a monster, a modern-day 21st century Frankenstein?”

She replied: “The approach of an industry-led and industry paid-for scheme was supported by Scottish Labour and the Conservatives and is the same as schemes around the world.

“We are not reinventing the wheel to wheel here, Scotland’s scheme is in line with successful schemes around the world.”

Scottish Labour’s Katy Clark asked if Slater would allow Circularity Scotland to be subject to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, but the Greens minister said the firm would be exempt as it is private.