Council chiefs have warned Lorna Slater to stop threatening local authorities with financial penalties if environmental targets in her circular economy bill are not met.

Ms Slater, the Green circular economy minister, will give evidence this morning on her proposed legislation to Holyrood’s Net Zero Committee.

Concerns have already been raised about the plans bypassing primary legislation, where amendments can be made, with a lot of the details set to be drawn up through secondary legislation.

Ms Slater has also faced criticism for a lack of financial clarity over the costs of her circular economy bill.

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Ahead of Ms Slater’s appearance at Holyrood this morning, Cosla’s economy and environment spokesperson, Gail Macgregor, has written to the committee, raising concerns over Ms Slater’s plans “threatening councils with financial penalties”, labelling the move “very unfair”.

It is understood that the Scottish Government could seek explanation from local authorities where appropriate and agree an improvement plan first, with the option to consider financial penalties as a last resort.

The row has emerged after Humza Yousaf’s government signed the Verity House Agreement with Cosla, that was supposed to set out a new collaborative way of working between central and local government in Scotland.

In her letter to the committee, Ms Macgregor said: “We want the threat of penalties for councils removed from the bill.

“Section 13 of the bill proposes imposing a liability on a local authority to pay a penalty to Scottish ministers if a target is not achieved.

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“This is not in tune with co-production, or the Verity House Agreement and we have asked Scottish Government to remove reference to penalties from the bill.”

She added: “Given this is a framework bill and there is significant uncertainly over future funding, we consider threatening councils with financial penalties is very unfair.

“We also cannot be convinced that taking away money from councils that may already struggling is a good way of delivering improvement in services.”

Ms Macgregor has also warned that the bill’s financial memorandum “is not capturing the full cost to local government”.

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She added: “Enforcement costs are certainly underestimated and, as above, we can not gauge the arising from a future yet undefined code of practice.”

The senior Cosla spokesperson added that “we are not on track to achieve the climate target in 2030”.

By 2030, Scotland, by law, has pledged to cut 1990 levels of emissions by 75%, as well as key waste and recycling aims being required to be met.

Ms Macgregor added: “Investments in improving kerbside waste and recycling collections are typically very costly and must be considered in the context of their carbon reduction and raw material saving impact.

“They need to be weighted up against return on investment in other crucial areas such as heat/buildings and transport.”

The Scottish Conservatives have criticised Ms Slater’s proposals.

Tory shadow net zero secretary, Douglas Lumsden, said: “This is the height of bad faith by the SNP government, which has continually undermined and underfunded councils, with dire results for public services.

The Herald: Douglas LumsdenDouglas Lumsden (Image: Scottish Parliament)

“Everyone wants responsible and transparent public spending, but it’s the SNP government that performed a screeching U-turn to reverse their council tax rise, and still can’t explain where the money will come from.

“SNP ministers should finally honour the Verity House Agreement and start to work with councils to deliver public services that meet people’s real priorities, instead of issuing threats.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We want to create a circular economy, in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible.

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“This is not just good for the environment – it will also create new economic opportunities and green jobs here in Scotland. Our Circular Economy Bill will establish the legislative framework to support this mission.

“The bill is expected to bring benefits to local authorities, for example as a result of less contamination of recycling, and savings made through waste collection and disposal costs, including reduced litter costs.

“We are committed to working closely with local authorities to co-design fair and achievable recycling targets for household waste, recognising the varied starting points and circumstances across different councils.

“These targets will apply from 2030 onwards, to allow reasonable time for preparation. This approach is based on the recent successful model developed in Wales.”