The Scottish Executive set itself on another collision course with Westminster over nuclear power yesterday when it refused to co-operate with moves to bury waste deep underground.

Ministers in the UK government have already signalled their support for burying the waste in deep geological facilities and yesterday launched a consultation exercise seeking the views of interested parties.

But Richard Lochhead, the Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment at Holyrood, moved quickly to rule out the executive's involvement in the process, insisting that deep disposal was an "out-of-sight out-of-mind policy" that most Scots were opposed to.

The announcement came just weeks after First Minister Alex Salmond insisted the executive would block any moves to build new nuclear power stations in Scotland.

Mr Lochhead said his preferred option was a "near surface near site" policy, which would allow waste to be monitored and remove the need for it to be transferred over long distances. He said: "We recognise that dealing with the legacy of radioactive waste from past nuclear activities is one of the most significant challenges we face.

"The Scottish government does not accept that geological disposal is the right way forward. This is a matter of principle for us and I have no doubt that public opinion in Scotland supports our view."

Mr Lochhead added: "We do not accept that it is right to seek to bury nuclear waste, which will remain active for thousands of years, in a deep geological facility or to expect any community to host such a facility. This out-of-sight out-of-mind policy should not extend to Scotland."

However, Mr Lochhead said the executive would still support the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) recommendations on interim storage of nuclear waste and would also support future work on long-term options.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "It is for the Scottish Executive to set out their position and the basis for it." However, she also stressed that the CoRWM had spent more than two and a half years assessing the options available before recommending the burial of nuclear waste deep under ground.

The Labour Party accused the executive of "choosing the path of unnecessary conflict".

Rhona Brankin, the party's shadow environment secretary, said: "Addressing the issue of nuclear waste is an ongoing process of consensus which the SNP have chosen to rupture part way through."

But the Green Party praised the executive's decision to reject the committee's recommendations.

Patrick Harvie MSP said: "It is clear that there is still no solution to the problem of nuclear waste.

"Dumping it in a hole deep in the ground is not a secure approach and no responsible government would bulldoze through deep disposal given the uncertainties and risks.

Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth, also welcomed Mr Lochhead's announcement and called on Westminster to rule out using any Scottish sites for deep disposal.

He said: "We are concerned that the UK government consultation is a sham to facilitate an unsustainable and unethical programme of new nuclear power stations. Solving the problem of nuclear waste needs to begin with a pledge not to create any more of the stuff.

"That decades after the start of the nuclear industry this country still doesn't have a safe solution to dealing with this country's radioactive waste legacy is further evidence that creating further waste from new nuclear power stations should not be countenanced."