A SCOTLAND Office minister who has backed calls for glass to be taken out of the Scottish Government’s deposit return scheme is a major shareholder in a whisky company, The National can reveal. 

Millionaire peer Malcolm Offord told the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) Forum in Edinburgh on Tuesday that it was time to create a recycling scheme that “works for everybody” and “take glass out of it”. 

According to the Lords Register of Interests, Offord is a major shareholder in The Borders Distillery Company Ltd with records showing he holds just over 900,000 shares. He also holds a number of shares in a whisky bottlers company Alpha Whisky Ltd. 

The Borders Distillery Company Ltd is a member of the Scotch Whisky Association - one of a number of industry bodies which has lobbied for glass to be excluded from Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks cans and bottles. 

Following Scottish Secretary Alister Jack’s announcement that Scotland would only be allowed an exemption to the Internal Market Act (IMA) if it excludes glass from its recycling scheme, there have been calls for greater transparency over how much influence industry lobbying had on the decision. 

READ MORE: Tory peer accused of having 'colonial' mindset with devolution comments

The UK Government was urged to explain the “striking coincidence” of a £20,000 donation from a trade body after changing their position on including glass in deposit return schemes, which was included in the 2019 Tory election manifesto. 

Meanwhile Scottish Tory MSP Maurice Golden was condemned for accepting match tickets from drinks producer Heineken before later withdrawing his support for a key part of Scotland's DRS. 

Now one of the scheme's foremost critics, the former Tory environment spokesman previously supported calls for glass to be included in the DRS. 

Scottish Government minister Lorna Slater has told MSPs that the DRS scheme – which was to have been the first of its kind in the UK – now cannot go ahead as “currently planned” after being “shot down by Westminster".  

Scottish Greens environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell MSP said: “Another day and yet another close connection between the Tory party and the drinks industry. 

“Bad enough that the unelected Lord Offord, who was welcomed to his seat by Scottish Secretary Alister Jack remember, is a major shareholder in a distillery and another whisky firm. 

“But he is also Minister for Exports, of which Scotland’s whisky industry tells us involves the export of 53 bottles every second last year, up from 44 every second the previous year, to 174 global markets. 

“It’s now almost beyond parody.” 

He added: “We have a Scotland Office Minister who owns shares in the whisky industry, an MSP who on multiple occasions accepted hospitality from a beer manufacturer, and a party that accepted tens of thousands of pounds of donations from the wine and spirits industry. 

READ MORE: Unelected Scotland Office minister shared firm's directorship with international fugitive

“All of which has been properly recorded. But it begs the very serious question, who stands to benefit from the Tories dropping their manifesto commitment to glass and why did they decide to do so at a time when we so urgently need action to protect the environment? 

“I for one, and I am sure many other business and environmental groups, would certainly like some clarity around that unanswered conundrum.” 

The appointment of Offord as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State to the Scotland Office – an unpaid role – in October 2021 caused a storm of controversy.  

The Tory donor failed in a bid to become an MSP but was handed a peerage by Boris Johnson so he could enter Government through the House of Lords. 

He was appointed as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Exports) in April this year. 

At the SCDI Forum it was reported when Offord was asked about the future of Scotland’s DRS scheme he responded: "We want to have a single market across the UK, minimising divergence, particularly in trade - the principle is that there are certain things we should do on a unitary basis - we have the same recycling scheme because goods travel across borders. 

"I see this as being a test case, where we all want recycling schemes, so let's just get round the table and create one that works for everybody." 

READ MORE: Malcolm Offord branded ‘expensive waste of space’ over India trip

He added: "Let's come together, take glass out of it, work out a UK scheme, then we can roll it out and get better organised going forward." 

A UK Government Spokesperson said: "Lord Offord was restating existing UK Government policy.

"There is an established regime in place for the management of interests held by ministers, and steps are taken to avoid or mitigate any potential or perceived conflicts of interest.

"The Minister was not and is not involved in any decisions on the UK Government's deposit return scheme."