ALISTER Jack has snubbed a second request from a Holyrood committee to give evidence over the UK Government’s decision to block a deposit return scheme (DRS) in Scotland.

Last month, the Scottish Secretary refused to appear in front of the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee and instead said the responsibility fell with ministers from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), who also declined the invitation.

The committee chair attacked Jack for “misunderstanding” their request in the latest released correspondence.

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The latest snub now means that Jack, Tory MP for Dumfries and Galloway, has declined four invitations to appear at Scottish Parliament committees over a variety of issues.

Jack’s presence was requested by MSPs to discuss the UK Government’s refusal to allow Scotland an exemption in the Internal Market Act (IMA) for the DRS earlier this year.

The committee also wanted to speak to the Scottish Secretary and Tory ministers about intergovernmental relations between Westminster and Holyrood.

However, on July 20, Jack refused to attend, leading to committee chair Edward Mountain, Tory MSP, issuing a second request with a deadline of September 30.

The National: Alister Jack

Mountain said the way the committee’s initial invitation had been handled was “frustrating” and that MSPs had been passed from “pillar to post” between the Scotland Office and Defra over the invitation.

Jack replied on September 8 but made no mention of any further request being given to the committee’s invitation to give evidence.

Instead, the Scottish Secretary said the UK Government was working with the Scottish Government to make a DRS “interoperable” across the UK.

“Stakeholders, including the committee, will be updated as plans develop,” he wrote.

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“As I am sure you can also appreciate, the UK Government would expect Scottish Government Ministers to answer questions of a Scottish Parliamentary committee on devolved policy areas, including explaining the readiness of their DRS, how the scheme in Scotland will be implemented, and how it will support interoperability across the UK.”

On intergovernmental relations, Jack added: “I have always been clear on when discussions between our governments on this matter have taken place, and I attach a letter I sent to the Presiding Officer in April 2023 for reference.”

The attached letter from Jack to Alison Johnstone “expressed concerns” about statements made by Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer in the Holyrood chamber, following the announcement that the recycling scheme would be delayed.

In a furious response, Mountain (below) said the committee was “disappointed” the invitation had been “misunderstood”.

The National:

Adding that while they agreed questions on Scottish Government policy were best directed at Scottish ministers, he said: “However, the Committee still wishes to discuss this matter with the UK Government to better understand how the exercise of powers in the UK Internal Markets Act 2020 has had a role in relation to the DRS.

“As those powers were exercised by the UK Government, we consider that it is the UK Government, and not the Scottish Government, that is best placed to help us understand this.”

The impact of the IMA on devolved powers is a “new, complex and developing area” for the Scottish Parliament, he added.

“We want to better understand the factors that are in play,” he wrote.

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“We can only do so by hearing from both governments.”

Mountain added that it is also “difficult” for MSPs to understand intergovernmental relations without hearing from both governments.

The Tory MSP again asked the Scotland Office and the UK Government to give further consideration to the committee's invitation, setting a deadline of October 30.

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Jack has previously refused to give evidence in Holyrood over his use of a Section 35 order to block the gender reforms legislation from becoming law at both the Constitution Committee and Equalities Committee.

Women and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch (above) also rejected an invitation from the Equalities, Human Rights, and Civil Justice Committee.

Elsewhere, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt rejected a request to attend the Finance Committee to discuss UK fiscal matters with MSPs via his chief secretary earlier this year.