AS memories of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow fade, the Scottish Government has provided further evidence that ministers find it much harder to deliver on bold-sounding plans than to come up with them.

Circular economy minister and Scottish Green Party MSP Lorna Slater announced last week that the flagship deposit return scheme is not expected to go live until August 2023, compared with original expectations of April this year.

With Ms Slater confidently predicting the scheme would eventually help to recycle billions of bottles and cans every year, the failure to deliver it on time could result in huge amounts of plastic and metal going to waste.

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She pinned the blame for the delay on the challenges imposed on businesses by Brexit and Covid-19 but environmental campaigners took a less forgiving view.

Friends of the Earth Scotland noted the Scottish Government had delayed the DRS start date again after little progress was made since the last delay was announced in May.

The organisation said: “The complexities of a VAT charge have yet to be agreed with HM Treasury and trust in the prominent role that producers and retailers are playing in the scheme is low.

“The scheme administrator, Circularity Scotland, is organised and run by the private sector and must bear some responsibility for the delays to date. Brexit and the pandemic, cited as the cause of the second delay, remain hurdles for DRS delivery.”

Kim Pratt, circular economy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said that while the delay to the scheme was not unexpected it remained disappointing.

She concluded: “The Scottish Government must learn from its mistakes to make sure the same problems don’t persist and result in even further delays to the scheme.”

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The problems the SNP government led by Nicola Sturgeon has faced in delivering the scheme raise serious questions about its ability to deliver on the environmental pledges it has made amid efforts to win support from greens for the campaign to separate Scotland from the rest of the UK. This was accompanied for years by the refrain of “it’s oor oil”.

Ms Slater and Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie were appointed ministers under the co-operation agreement the party struck with the SNP in August.

HeraldScotland: Scottish Green Party co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA WireScottish Green Party co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Friends of the Earth Scotland also took aim at the Scottish Government last week in an announcement welcoming the formation of a second Just Transition Commission to support the development of a climate resilient and fairer economy.

“The Commission must be resourced and empowered to play its part in holding the Scottish Government to account so that it moves beyond the rhetoric and starts delivering green jobs, reducing social inequality and rapidly cutting our emissions,” said head of campaigns Mary Church.

The criticisms were voiced a week after the independent Climate Change Committee said the Scottish Government needed to start delivering on its climate promises.

The body noted: “With most of the key policy levers in the hands of Scottish Ministers, consultations and strategies must quickly turn into implementation and rapid emissions reductions.”

CCC chairman Lord Deben declared: “Scotland’s successful hosting of COP26 makes it particularly important for the Scottish Government to respond to the new Glasgow Climate Pact and show how serious it is about delivering Net Zero.

“Strategies alone won’t reduce emissions. Major changes are needed across the Scottish economy, requiring lasting, systemic action in most sectors. Clarity and transparency on policy, supported with detail on how these policies will be delivered has been lacking.”

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Some might have noticed a familiar air to Lord Deben’s comments.

In September, the Auditor General for Scotland Stephen Boyle, highlighted a “major implementation gap between policy ambitions and delivery on the ground” as he warned the country “remains riven by inequalities”.

Last week Mr Boyle said ministers needed to be more transparent about how they were using massive amounts of public spending to tackle the fallout from the pandemic.

In a report on the national accounts for the 2020/21 financial year, he said the Scottish Government needed to be more proactive in showing “where and how this money was spent, and show a clearer line from budgets to funding announcements to actual spending”.

Amid huge uncertainty about the outlook for the economy as the country grapples with the Omicron variant, the observations of Mr Boyle, Lord Deben and Friends of the Earth Scotland highlight serious concerns about the Scottish Government’s handling of key issues.

While the country waits for the Scottish Government to deliver green jobs, Ms Sturgeon has exacerbated the problems faced by the key North Sea oil and gas industry with the stance she has taken on the giant Cambo field off Shetland.

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Her calls for the UK Government to refuse Shell’s application to develop the find may well have played a part in the oil giant’s decision to shelve a project that could support thousands of jobs.

In September analysts at Wood Mackenzie said Ms Sturgeon was fuelling uncertainty among firms about whether to invest in greenfield North Sea projects by saying the UK Government should reassess licences, some of which were awarded years ago.

Since that warning was issued the surge in gas prices on wholesale markets has led to carnage in the energy sector in the UK and left consumers facing the prospect of big increases in their bills.

Market watchers say the rise in gas prices this year partly reflects a drop in UK production as well as moves by Russia to limit supplies for political reasons.

By frightening off investment from the North Sea the Scottish Government risks increasing the country’s reliance on imports and undermining a key industry while exacerbating the emissions problem.

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Last week leading authorities on the global energy system said the rise in gas prices had been a factor in a dramatic rise in the use of coal this year, after the pandemic dented demand in 2020.

The Paris-based IEA observed:”The rebound is being driven by this year’s rapid economic recovery, which has pushed up electricity demand much faster than low-carbon supplies can keep up. The steep rise in natural gas prices has also increased demand for coal power by making it more cost-competitive.”

Such developments underline the need for an informed debate about the role that oil and gas can play in powering Scotland amid the transition to the less carbon intensive energy system that is required to help deal with emissions. The Scottish Government must take an approach that reflects the complexities involved.