EXCLUSIVE: Highland Spring gets £4.5m from green fund despite impact of plastic bottles

The Scottish government has been criticised after handing £4.5million to a billionaire’s bottled water firm.

Emirati tycoon Mahdi Al-Tajir’s Highland Spring got the cash for a train depot at its factory in Perthshire after claiming it will help cut emissions.

But bottled water is considered by environmentalists to be a huge and unnecessary contributor to climate change and plastic pollution.

A Freedom of Information request showed the Scottish government paid £4.47m from an environmental fund towards the £20m depot.

The firm said half of its bottles would now go by rail, avoiding thousands of truck journeys each year.

But the Barcelona Institute for Global Health found making a plastic bottle uses three times as much water than the bottle can hold, and bottled water is 3,500 times worse for the environment than tap water.

Al-Tajir, who owns a £250m home near Buckingham Palace, has an estimated fortune of at least £1.65bn.

Labour MSP Neil Bibby said of the depot: “The sums of public money involved are substantial, there are questions to answer.”

A spokesman for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Removing more than 10 million lorry miles from Scotland’s roads in the first 10 years of operation will go a long way to improving the environment.”

Highland Spring said: “We appreciate their support in delivering this project.”