THE BODY set up to run Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme has been described as a “modern-day 21st century Frankenstein entirely out of control.”

Former minister Fergus Ewing's blistering attack on Circularity Scotland Ltd (CSL) came as MSPs questioned minister Lorna Slater over the excessive “eyewatering salaries” being paid to executives.

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Over the weekend, leaked documents revealed CEO David Harris will take home a staggering £300,000 a year, according to reports.

The firm, a not-for-profit company established by industry, and backed by £9m from the Scottish National Investment Bank, was selected by ministers to administer the scheme last year. 

READ MORE: Anger over Deposit Return Scheme boss's £300,000 salary

In Holyrood, Ms Slater failed to say if she knew how much Mr Harris and other executives would be paid when the firm was chosen to administer the scheme. She also declined to say if she had spoken to CSL about the wage bill. 

Ms Slater told MSPs that as it was a private not-for-profit company, “it would be inappropriate for ministers to interfere with or comment on the matters.”

Labour’s Colin Smyth told the Green minister: “Given the importance of ensuring value for money for small producers, who are deeply worried about the cost of this scheme, surely the minister should have asked for this information before she made that decision? 

“Because the regulations are very clear that this parliament agreed, applications for approval as a scheme administrator must be made to Scottish ministers and must include any information requested by Scottish ministers. 

“So why was that information not requested? And given that she now knows what those excessive eyewatering salaries are, how does she expect small producers to sign up for the scheme when they're being so clearly ripped off, and part of their fees are being used for the excessive salaries of bosses who are using Scotland as a stepping stone for their wider aim of running deposit return schemes right across the UK?”

Ms Slater told the MSP: “Circularity Scotland's application to become a scheme administrator was approved on the 21st of March 2021. Any other organisation can also apply to be scheme administrator provided that they can meet the requirements as set out in the DRS regulations. 

“The DRS regulations were passed by this parliament and CSL was an applicant who met those regulations.”

She said producers and small retailers had been an “important part of designing and putting in place Scotland's deposit return scheme and Circularity Scotland has indeed been working very closely with these businesses”.

READ MORE: SNP fails in 'shameful' bid to scrap FMQs until new leader ready

Mr Ewing, who has long been a critic of the scheme, was scathing: “What's clear from the failure, once again, of the minister to answer straightforward questions, is that Circularity Scotland Ltd is a creature entirely, entirely out of control. 

“It's deciding its own policies, it's deciding its own salaries, and it will decimate small businesses throughout Scotland whether they be shops, pubs, clubs, brewers distillers or recycling companies. 

“Can I ask the minister this, have you not, on behalf of the Scottish Government, in creating Circularity Scotland Ltd created a monster, a modern-day 21st century Frankenstein entirely out of control?”


Ms Slater said the firm had been created by industry to “support Scottish businesses to comply with the regulations passed by this parliament.” 

“The approach of an industry-led and industry paid for scheme was supported by Scottish Labour and the Conservatives and is the same as schemes around the world.

"We're not reinventing the wheel here, Scotland scheme is in line with successful schemes around the world,” she added. 

The Tory MSP Stephen Kerr accused Ms Slater of insulting parliament. 

“Is she seriously saying that this not-for-profit that she has facilitated the creation of has got nothing to do with her? That they can do what they like? 

“The people of Scotland will have formed their own views on these monstrous salary numbers. And they'll also be forming a view of the incompetence of this minister, who is patently not fit for purpose. 

“I didn't hear a question in there,” Ms Slater replied. “But significant progress has been made towards Scotland's deposit return scheme as we work towards our go live date in August of this year.”