DRS: Firms spend £300m to handle glass in scheme which may be axed

LORNA Slater has said Scottish ministers will give clarity on Scotland’s deposit return scheme “as quickly as possible” as she revealed businesses north of the border have spent £300 million making sure they could comply with the requirement to handle glass.

trade barrier with other parts of the UK.

“As recently as January the UK Government acknowledged that it is for devolved governments to determine the scope of their deposit return schemes,” Ms Slater, the circular economy minister, told BBC Scotland.

“This is absolutely within devolved powers. It is the UK that have changed what they wanted to do in England at short notice and then they have tried to impose this change on us by not granting the full exclusion.

“That is an outrageous thing to do when businesses in Scotland have invested around £300 million in the scheme, have recruited people have put in place the infrastructure to handle glass. To now say they’re not going to allow that is a democratic outrage.”

She accused the UK Government of blocking Holyrood at every turn said not giving the exemption to the internal market act in full was part of a “systematic undermining of devolution”.

The Scottish Green MSP told the BBC’s Sunday Show: “We should absolutely be using the powers of devolution to prevent waste and litter, to tackle environmental issues and social issues. That’s what it’s for.

“Westminster is starting to block us at every turn, on equalities issues, on environmental issues, this is a disastrous way forward and is disrespectful to Scotland.”

But Scottish Conservative Maurice Golden said Ms Slater has “tried to cover up her own inadequacies by pettily attempting to make the deposit return scheme a constitutional issue”.

He added: “The UK Government have listened to worried businesses who are calling for a UK-wide approach.

“The reality is the SNP-Greens have made such a mess of things that the current scheme is unrecognisable from the one envisaged four years ago.”

On Friday night, UK Government ministers wrote to First Minister Humza Yousaf and told him that in order for it to allow the scheme to proceed, it can only include PET plastic bottles, and aluminium and steel cans.

With similar schemes in the rest of the UK not due to come into effect until 2025, Scottish ministers had been forced to seek an exemption from the UK Internal Market Act, amid concerns trade between the four nations could be impacted.

Glass bottles are not included in the DRS plans for England and Northern Ireland, and UK ministers argued having glass in the Scottish scheme could create a “permanent divergence” in the market.

The letter from UK Environment Secretary Therese Coffey, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack and minister for intergovernmental relations Michael Gove added that it would be “a very significant step for businesses and consumers, and there is insufficient justification for such an approach”.

Ms Slater said on Sunday it has created “massive uncertainty for the system”.
She told the BBC Sunday Show’s today: “The scheme has been progressing very, very successfully. We’ve got 95 per cent of the industry…of the producers of the industry signed up in March and we’re working towards getting the system launched in March.

“You will start be starting to see reverse vending machines appear in your local grocery stores. We are all systems go.”

However, when pressed that it sounded like the scheme was happening, she said the request by the UK Government created “massive uncertainty”.

She said: “This creates a massive uncertainty for the system. This removing of glass which is a significant component, and for which the investment has already been put in place.
“We now have to go back, talk to Scottish businesses, talk to our delivery partners for this scheme and understand if we still have a viable scheme.”

Asked when there would be clarity, she said: “We’ll be doing that as quickly as possible, but of course it will take a bit of time to evaluate a scheme without glass, and to understand how this will affect Scottish business.”

Ms Slater has repeatedly blamed the UK Government for uncertainty over the scheme saying that back in 2020 when the Scottish Government legislation was passed on the initiative, the Conservatives were also committed to including glass in the English scheme.

However, it later dropped glass from the scheme in England and Northern Ireland.
In a long running row Scottish ministers have blamed previous hold ups to the scheme, that had been due to be launched this August, on the UK ministers failure to grant the exemption.

Ms Slater said the Scottish Government had sought it as far back as July 2021, while the UK Government said she only made what they deemed a formal request in March.


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