HOLYROOD ministers have been accused of “moving Scotland further away from becoming carbon neutral” after new statistics revealed that waste incinerator capacity has soared by almost 400 per cent since the SNP came to power.

Across Scotland, the total capacity for incinerators this year is now at 3.9 million tonnes – a rise from 3.6 million tonnes last year and 1.1 million tonnes back in 2007.

In 2007, there was just 0.2 million tonnes of capacity for household waste to be burned, but by this year, that will have risen 10-fold to 2.1 million.

The Scottish Conservatives have accused the Scottish Government of failing to put their strong words on the environment and the climate emergency into practice, while environmental campaigners have warned there is “absolutely no place” for the practice in any strategy to eradicate carbon emissions.

Scotland has committed to become carbon net zero by 2045, including aviation, five years ahead of the UK Government. The SNP administration has also committed to a “green recovery” from the Covid-19 crisis – putting emphasis on creating renewable energy jobs and encouraging companies to transition away from fossil fuels.

The Scottish Government said that capacity is required while the nation transitions to its circular economy ambition where all products and waste are re-used.

The SNP has committed to recycle 70 per cent of all waste by 2025 and reduce all waste by 15 per cent and food waste by 33 per cent by 2025.

But statistics show that the capacity for waste incineration has steadily increased over the last 13 years.

Environment Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, stressed that the capacity figures are “higher than the actual throughput”.

The total capacity includes waste incineration facilities for clinical, municipal, biomass such as wood waste, tyres and poultry litter wastes.

Ms Cunningham added: “ Several potential municipal and biomass facilities with an environmental permit are at different stages of development.

“Not all permitted facilities will reach financial close and construction. The permitted capacity of municipal waste incineration facilities in the commissioning or construction stages of development is around 0.5 million tonnes. The permitted capacity of waste incineration facilities where construction has not started is 0.8 million tonnes for municipal waste and 42,000 tonnes for biomass.”

But the Scottish Tories have called for the Scottish Government to explain how it will meet its net zero carbon targets.

Scottish Conservative economy spokesperson, Maurice Golden, said: “Under the SNP the capacity for incinerating waste has gone up hugely. “That’s especially true of household waste, which has risen 10-fold, and will include everyday items which could easily be recycled instead.

“The SNP likes to talk a good game on the environment with ambitious net zero targets and climate emergency declarations, but in practice, the decisions it is taking on the ground are only moving Scotland further away from becoming carbon neutral.

“Clearly when the SNP announced its climate emergency it didn’t have any kind of plan or vision about how to reach that point, as these statistics prove.”

New research from Zero Waste Scotland found that carbon emissions associated with Scotland’s waste in 2018 dropped by 11 per cent from the previous year – with 10.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent produced from waste in 2018.

Friends of the Earth Scotland director, Dr Richard Dixon, said: “There is absolutely no place for incineration as a solution for tackling the climate crisis and we must ensure that local authorities or businesses don’t rush to build even more waste-hungry incinerators as the answer to our waste problems.

“Incineration means sending tonnes of useful materials up in smoke, as well as creating a barrier to moving to a circular economy where we reduce, re-use and recycle goods and materials.

“Scotland has been steadily decreasing climate emissions associated with our waste but far more effort is needed from Government to cut the volume of waste we create in the first place as well as how we manage it to keep useful materials circulating in the economy."

The Scottish Government will publish its delayed updated climate change plan by the end of the year.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our commitment to becoming a net-zero society by 2045 is unwavering. Scotland is already committed to world-leading action to combat climate change and our 2020-21 Programme for Government places this at the heart of our action on jobs, skills and investment.

“The Programme for Government also includes an investment of £70 million to improve refuse collection infrastructure and develop a new route map to reduce waste and improve recycling as part of plans to drive a thriving circular economy.

“The Committee on Climate Change has recommended that disposal of biodegradable waste to landfill should be banned by 2025 at the latest. We have ambitious targets to improve the way we manage materials by reducing waste, increasing recycling and keeping materials at a higher value for longer.

“We are making strong progress but still need capacity to dispose of residual waste while we make the transition to a circular economy in Scotland.”