NICOLA Sturgeon and Jeremy Corbyn have criticised the UK Government for a lack of urgency in tackling the scourge of plastic pollution.

The First Minister and Labour leader hit out at the 2042 deadline set by Theresa May for the eradication of all avoidable plastic waste in the UK.

Ms Sturgeon said the issue was more urgent than Mrs May's 25-year timescale but came under fire for her own Government's actions.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie raised the issue at First Minister's Questions on the day the Scottish Government announced its intention to ban the sale of plastic-stemmed cotton buds.

He welcomed how both governments were trying to respond to the growing concern about plastic pollution but noted: “The UK might be accused of kicking the issue into the long grass by talking about what it might achieve by 2042.”

Mr Harvie said the issue was "far more challenging and urgent" and argued that the responsibility should be placed "with the highly profitable businesses and industries which are the real source of the problem". He urged Ms Sturgeon to tackle wider pollution caused by the petrochemicals industry.

In response, the FM agreed that this was an urgent issue; “more urgent than the 25-year timescale that the Prime Minister has set out today".

She highlighted her Government’s action including the plastic bag levy, plans for a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and the expert group set up to look at other possible levies.

"We're taking a range of actions and I do think that's the right approach. It's not about letting any particular interest off the hook, it's about companies, it's about consumers and it's about governments," she said.

Mr Corbyn also insisted the UK Government’s 25-year plan was far too long. “The plastic culture has to be challenged, the throwaway society has to be challenged. The pollution in our rivers and seas by plastic waste is absolutely dreadful.

“We have to be much tougher on returning, if not eliminating altogether where we can, the use of plastic but increase and improve recycling.”

He added: “Yes, take it on but 25 years? Do it now.”

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said the Government announcement was welcome but was not "commensurate with the scale of the crises we face".

John Sauven for Greenpeace UK said the natural environment needed a "25-month emergency plan" more than it needed a 25-year vision with urgent action needed from the Government.

Launching her plan at a nature reserve in south-west London, the Prime Minister dismissed as a "false choice" the suggestion that Britain must choose between economic growth or environmental protection.

Staking her party's claim for the green mantle, she promised to put the natural world "centre stage" in her Government's agenda and declared: "Conservatism and conservation are natural allies."

The plan comes as part of a concerted drive by the Tories to demonstrate their concern for green issues and, in doing so, make their party more attractive to younger voters.

Their stance on issues such as fox hunting and the ivory trade was blamed for losing the votes of young people inspired with a renewed interest in the natural world by programmes such as Sir David Attenborough's Blue Planet II.

The UK Government's environment strategy includes plans to:

*eliminate avoidable plastic waste within 25 years, including by encouraging supermarkets to introduce "plastic-free" aisles;

*extend the 5p charge for plastic carrier bags to all retailers in England, closing the Government's loophole excluding smaller shops;

*consider taxes and charges on single-use items such as takeaway containers and coffee cups and

*support the transition to almost all cars and vans producing zero carbon emissions by 2050.

When it was pointed out to No 10 that green issues were devolved, Mrs May’s spokesman stressed how Whitehall would “wish to be engaged in conversations with the devolved administrations on this plan; you’re quite right they’re devolved and they are matters for the devolved administrations. But where we can co-operate, we absolutely will.”