LORNA Slater has survived a vote of no confidence, with most Green and SNP MSPs rallying around the beleaguered Circular Economy minister.

However, backbencher Fergus Ewing voted against the Green remaining in post.

The Inverness and Nairn MSP, who has long been a critic of Ms Slater's handling of the Deposit Recycling Scheme (DRS) said that as the minister "does not enjoy the confidence of business" he had voted "to seek a new minister appointed to take over this troubled matter to deal with the huge fallout of numerous compensation claims and reconsider afresh how best to achieve recycling objectives."

The rebellion from the former backbencher poses a dilemma for the SNP business managers about whether or not to remove the whip from the veteran MSP.

During his speech, First Minister Huzma Yousaf made clear that the vote was about more than just Ms Slater's competence.

"The question I have is are Labour and Liberal Democrats going to blindly follow the Conservative whip here and continue to give them protection, give them cover to continue to undermine our democratic parliament?" he asked. 

Any question over Mr Ewing's membership of the SNP parliamentary group would be even more fraught in light of the party's decision not to suspend Nicola Sturgeon following her arrest. 

The Tory motion of no confidence, which was backed by Labour and the Lib Dems, was defeated by 68 votes to 55.

Ms Slater has been under pressure over the lengthy delay to Scotland’s troubled DRS announced earlier this month. 

READ MORE: Deposit Return Scheme: Circularity Scotland calls in administrators

The debate and vote in Holyrood came just hours after she told MSPs that Circularity Scotland (CSL), the industry-led body set up to administer the DRS, had called in the administrators, leaving around 60 staff facing redundancy. 

Earlier this month, the Scottish Government said they had been "left with no other option" than to push the launch of the DRS back until October 2025 "at the earliest" because of conditions imposed by the UK Government.

Tory ministers made clear the Scottish Government would only be given the necessary exemption to the UK Internal Market Act if they made a number of substantial changes.

This included removing glass from the scope of the scheme and a demand that ministers in Edinburgh agree to standardise the deposit charge and labelling with the other UK schemes.

Ms Slater said the lack of detail around conditions laid down by Whitehall, including not knowing what the deposit charge would need to be, meant the scheme could not go ahead as planned.

However, CSL insisted that the scheme could have gone ahead next March despite the UK Government's demands.

Opening the debate, the Scottish Tory MSP who brought the motion, Liam Kerr said he did not doubt Ms Slater’s integrity or her commitment to the DRS. 

“I  don't know Lorna Slater. The only major interactions have been in this chamber and in committee. 

“And I do not doubt for a minute her integrity. I do not doubt that she strives to do her best in a crucial and wide-ranging brief. And I do not doubt her commitment to the deposit return scheme. 

“All of those are not in question in my mind, and nor do they fall to be considered today. 

“My reason for bringing this motion is that since being appointed to this crucial ministerial role in autumn 2021, with particular responsibility for implementing Scotland's deposit return scheme, a scheme that all parties in this chamber supported and voted for and wish to see succeed, the minister has nevertheless struggled.”

READ MORE: Green Lorna Slater branded 'shameless' as private boat cost revealed

Mr Kerr also raised Ms Slater’s charter of a boat to Rum for ministerial business rather than taking the CalMac service.

Her private hire of the boat cost £1,200, substantially more than the £9.40 cost of a return ticket on the ferry. 

He said the Green was also guilty of using misleading statistics, and having “an empty limousine drive from the central belt to the northeast to pick her up and drive back to Edinburgh.”

“Indeed, she's used a chauffeur driven car for 50 journeys in the last year despite urging Scots to use public transport instead of private vehicles. 

“And then she confessed on November 22 that she didn't know the difference between the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government whilst believing that economic growth is wrong, leading [SNP MSP] Fergus Ewing to describe her as the enemy of Scotland, small businesses.

“These are significant errors of judgement in a portfolio which we all want no need to succeed.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf described the Tory motion as a “stunt.”

He said: “The Conservatives engage in tactics which are, let's be honest, aimed to deflect rather than engage on the serious issues our country faces. 

“Today, we regrettably learn that a process is underway to appoint administrators to Circularity Scotland. 

“This is not a result of the Scottish Government's actions. It's not a result of Lorna Slater's actions, responsibility lies solely and squarely with a Conservative UK government whose aim it has been from the very beginning to sabotage this DRS.”

The SNP leader added: "The question I have is are Labour and Liberal Democrats going to blindly follow the Conservative whip here and continue to give them protection, give them cover to continue to undermine our democratic parliament?

Mr Yousaf said it was “no coincidence” that the Tories had “pressed this stunt just a day after the House of Commons voted to press sanctions on Boris Johnson, sanctions that the soon-to-be Baroness Jack failed to support.”

Speaking for Labour, Sarah Boyack pointed out that she was no stranger to votes of no confidence, having faced one in 2001 when she was transport minister. 

She said Ms Slater was “not the only minister at fault” but she was in charge of the scheme and was “responsible for the mess we have now.”

“I've stated previously that the Tory government's actions are indefensible, but the Scottish Government must also be held accountable for the decisions they've made,” Ms Boyack added. 

Green MSP Mark Ruskell described the vote of no confidence as “the most shameless, cynical and desperate stunt by the Tories that I've seen yet in this chamber.”

“I'm proud of my minister Lorna Slater,” he said. “She's not only brought DRS to the point of launch, she has increased investment in nature, she's banned new waste incinerators. 

“She's brought forward a circular economy bill to cut littering and waste and she's delivering Scotland's first new national park in a generation. 

“She's a doer, a renewables engineer with real world experience in industry. We are lucky to have her and yet the disrespect, the lack of courtesy even now shown by some members in this chamber has at times disgusted me. 

“This Parliament needs more Lorna Slaters and so does this government. 

“So get used to her because she's just getting started and has barely even begun to deliver the transformative agenda of the greens in government. She's not going anywhere but forward tonight.”

READ MORE: Deposit Return Scheme delayed until October 2025 at the earliest

The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said he took no pleasure in supporting the motion of no confidence. He said there was “an element of the Conservatives deflecting from their own rule breaking prime minister."

“It is no coincidence that this is what Conservative MSPs were tweeting about last night while MPs backed the Partygate report.

“At the heart of all of this is that we have two governments that are both incapable of owning up to mistakes, that deflect blame and for whom cooperation is a dirty word - even if that is what hard-pressed businesses are crying out for. 

“We are listening, and it is in that context that Scottish Liberal Democrats will be voting for the motion tonight.”