LABOUR has accused the Scottish Government of "hollow rhetoric" over its environmental record as figures reveal recycling rates remain lower than 2014 and well behind targets.

SNP ministers set an ambition that 60 per cent of household waste should be recycled by 2020 after a previous target of 50 per cent by 2013 was missed.

But last year just 42.7 per cent of household waste in Scotland was recycled - a lower rate than at any point from 2014 to 2019.

Figures from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) found that 41.5 per cent of household waste was recycled in 2013, 42.8 per cent in 2014 and 44.1 per cent in 2015. The figures for 2016 and 2017 were 45 per cent and 45.5 per cent, while for 2018 and 2019 44.7 per cent and 44.9 per cent.

Labour said the failure to meet the recycling targets were a blow to the SNP-Green administration which promised to make environmental issues a key priority under the Bute House Agreement which saw the two parties agree to enter a power sharing arrangement in Holyrood.

Earlier this month the government advisory body the Climate Change Committee warned that Scotland’s lead over the rest of the UK towards achieving net zero had been lost.

It also said that environmental ambitions are “at risk” due to a lack of progress towards key milestones, with seven of 11 legal targets missed since the 2009 Climate Change Act.

The committee, which offers independent advice to governments across the UK, said there are “glaring gaps” in the Scottish Government’s climate plans.

The report highlighted three areas in which policy is devolved which require fresh focus.

On transport, it said Scotland had fallen behind other parts of the UK on decarbonisation, with sales of electric vehicles lower and the government being “unwilling” to consider measures like restricting aviation growth.

Plans to deliver low-carbon heating sources and improve energy efficiency of buildings are “wholly inadequate”, the report said, and it also calls on the government to provide urgent detail on decarbonising agriculture.

Scottish Labour net zero spokesperson Colin Smyth said: "These dismal figures lay bare the reality behind the SNP-Green government’s hollow environmental rhetoric.

“They claim to recognise the scale of the climate emergency, but missed targets and broken promises pile up around us.

“This humiliating failure joins the long list of pledges this government has abandoned over the years, on everything from green jobs to emissions to active travel.

“The SNP-Green government’s usual mismanagement and spin won’t cut it - we need bold action to build a greener, fairer Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are taking dedicated action to increase recycling rates and reduce waste in our economy.

“Our £70 million Recycling Improvement Fund is delivering one of the biggest investments in recycling in Scotland in a generation, which will make it easier for households to recycle and increase local recycling rates.

“In August, we are introducing the UK’s first deposit return scheme for drinks containers, which will recycle billions of bottles and cans every single year.

“Our forthcoming Circular Economy Bill will establish the legislative framework to support Scotland’s transition to a zero waste and circular economy. Together, these actions will boost recycling and make an important contribution to the fight against the climate crisis.”