Scottish Secretary Alister Jack and another Tory minister have been accused of passing a Holyrood committee “from pillar to post” by its Tory convener.

Sir Edward Mountain said the way the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Scotland Office behaved was “frustrating” and “disappointing”.

He has now asked Mr Jack to respond by the end of the month.

The row started when Holyrood’s Net Zero committee wrote to Mr Jack in June asking him to appear before it and give evidence in the autumn.

MSPs wanted to quiz him about the Scottish Government’s failed deposit return scheme (DRS) and intergovernmental relations.

Intended to improve the recycling of drink containers from August, the scheme effectively fell apart after the UK Government refused to allow it to include glass.

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The Scottish Government then delayed it to October 2025, but the company set up to run it, Circularity Scotland, went broke as businesses refused to fund it in the meantime.

Asking for a member of the UK Government to give evidence at Holyrood, Sir Edward wrote to Mr Jack: “I would be grateful if you were able to accept this invitation”.

However In July Mr Jack declined and said that as Defra was leading on the matter “it would be more beneficial to the Committee if the Defra Secretary of State was invited instead”.

Sir Mountain wrote to Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey a few days later mentioning Mr Jack’s suggestion and asked for a Defra minister to give evidence.

A month later, Rebecca Pow, the minister for environmental quality and resilience, wrote to Sir Edward refusing to attend despite being “the minister responsible for this policy area”.

Without offering an explanation as to why, she wrote: “Unfortunately, I will politely decline."

In a follow-up letter to Mr Jack today, Sir Edward complained about the committee’s treatment by the UK Government, and asked Mr Jack to reconsider his refusal to appear.

He told the Scottish Secretary: “The Committee finds the way our invitation has been handled frustrating. 

“It is not helpful to be passed from pillar to post by two arms of the same government, when a coordinated response agreed between your two departments setting out whether the invitation could be accepted ought, in the Committee’s view, to have been possible.

“Whilst I appreciate that the UK Government might consider that there are good reasons why it should not, at this point, take part in a public discussion on DRS, and wider issues relating to intergovernmental relations around it, it was also disappointing that neither response from the UK Government gave any substantive reasons for turning our invitation down.”

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The Highlands & Islands MSP went on: “As you will know, difficulties around DRS - and the taxpayer’s potential financial exposure as a result of those difficulties - are a matter of great public interest and concern in Scotland. “It is therefore reasonable to expect a clear explanation of why the invitation was declined.

“I request that further consideration is given to our invitation. 

“If this issue sits outwith your Cabinet portfolio, I would be grateful if you could make internal

representations to ascertain whether a UK Minister is available to appear at Committee.

“On behalf of the Committee, I request a response by 30 September.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: "We continue to work with the Scottish Government, and the other devolved administrations, to develop an approach to making DRSs across the UK interoperable. 

"We will update stakeholders, including the committee, as plans develop. 

"The UK Government remains unwavering in its commitment to improving the environment, while also upholding the UK’s internal market.

"The Scottish Government paused its DRS so that it starts at the same time as the UK Government’s scheme. Schemes need to be interoperable across the whole of the UK, to provide a simple and effective system for businesses and consumers."