THE SCOTTISH Government has been accused of rowing back on a commitment to halt new waste incinerators being approved after the minister responsible suggested the decision will remain down to local councils.

Greens Circular Economy Minister, Lorna Slater, has told MSPs that new facilities for burning rubbish should not be granted permission.

She said there would be “very limited exceptions” to the ban on new municipal incinerators.

The announcement came after a review by waste expert Dr Colin Church, commissioned by the Scottish Government, made 12 recommendations including a cap on the use of incineration as a method of disposal.

Ms Slater has confirmed that all 12 recommendations set out in the independent review will be implemented by the Scottish Government.

But now, Ms Slater has suggested that councils could still give facilities the green light.

She said: "Sepa are unable to issue permits if a facility does not have planning permission.”

Ms Slater added: “That is why, in line with Dr Church’s recommendation that no further planning permission is granted unless balanced by an equal or greater closure of capacity, with limited exceptions for remote and rural areas, if fully justified, we will keep in place the energy from waste notification direction.

“This requires planning authorities to alert Scottish ministers of new planning applications that involve incineration facilities and to notify Scottish ministers if they are minded to grant planning permission to such facilities.

“This gives ministers the opportunity to decide whether there are national interests at stake which would merit ministers calling in an application for their own determination or to allow the local authority to issue the decision at local level.”

But Tory MSP Maurice Golden has accused the minister of reneging on her commitment to ban new incinerators.

He said: “The question the SNP-Green Government must answer here is this – when is a ban not a ban?

“Clearly, Lorna Slater tried very hard to create the impression that new incinerator plants would be banned in Scotland.

“Yet in this answer, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all.”

Mr Golden added: “Instead, councils will get to decide if these should go ahead, and at that point Scottish Government ministers may or may not have a view.

“This isn’t an issue of whether local authorities or central government are best placed to make a decision on planning and licensing.

“It’s a matter of, yet again, the Scottish Government pretending it is serious about the environment when, in reality, it is falling far short of what it claimed.”