Green Party co-leader accused of lobbying for private company
Lorna Slater, the co-leader of the Scottish Green Party and the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, has been accused of lobbying for a private company in which she holds shares. Slater made a phone call to the Scottish Government’s energy consents unit on behalf of Orbital Marine Power, a tidal energy company where she worked as an engineer before becoming a minister.
Slater claimed that she was only seeking information on the status of Orbital’s application for a marine licence, which was delayed due to a legal challenge by a fishing group. She said that she did not influence or pressure the officials, and that she declared her interest in Orbital in the Scottish Parliament’s register of interests.
However, opposition parties have criticised Slater for her phone call, saying that it was a breach of the ministerial code of conduct and a conflict of interest. They have also questioned the role of the Scottish Green Party in the power-sharing agreement with the Scottish National Party (SNP), which was signed in August 2021.
Unionist MSPs demand investigation and resignation
Unionist MSPs from the Scottish Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats have demanded an investigation into Slater’s phone call, and some have called for her resignation. They have also accused the SNP of covering up the incident, which took place in September 2021, but was only revealed by a Freedom of Information request by The Times newspaper.
Annie Wells, the Scottish Conservative chief whip, said that Slater’s phone call was “a clear breach of the ministerial code” and that she should resign or be sacked by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. She also said that the SNP-Green deal was “a sham” and that the Greens were “nothing more than SNP lapdogs”.
Jackie Baillie, the Scottish Labour deputy leader, said that Slater’s phone call was “an extraordinary act of hypocrisy” and that she should “consider her position”. She also said that the SNP-Green deal was “a coalition of chaos” and that the Greens were “selling out their principles for a seat at the table”.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said that Slater’s phone call was “a serious error of judgement” and that she should “apologise and explain herself”. He also said that the SNP-Green deal was “a dodgy deal” and that the Greens were “complicit in the SNP’s failures”.
SNP and Green Party defend Slater’s phone call
The SNP and the Green Party have defended Slater’s phone call, saying that it was not a breach of the ministerial code or a conflict of interest. They have also dismissed the criticism from the opposition parties as “political opportunism” and “baseless attacks”.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said that Slater’s phone call was “entirely appropriate” and that she followed the guidance on declaring interests. The spokesperson also said that Slater’s phone call had “no bearing on the outcome of the application” and that the decision was made by an independent body, Marine Scotland.
Patrick Harvie, the co-leader of the Scottish Green Party and the Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights, said that Slater’s phone call was “a routine enquiry” and that she acted with “transparency and integrity”. He also said that Slater’s phone call was “a distraction from the real issues” and that the opposition parties were “trying to undermine the SNP-Green cooperation agreement”.
The SNP-Green cooperation agreement, which was hailed as a “historic” and “ground-breaking” deal by Sturgeon and Harvie, aims to deliver a range of policies on climate change, social justice, democracy and independence. The deal gives the Greens two ministerial posts and a seat in the Cabinet, as well as a commitment from the SNP to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence before the end of 2023.