Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) could be canned by the end of the month if the UK government does not give the green light, a Scottish government minister has warned.
Lorna Slater, Scotland’s minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, said without the UK government granting an exemption from the Internal Market Act the initiative would be “unviable”.
The Internal Market Act was established in 2020 in order to prevent internal trade barriers forming within the UK following its exit from the EU Single Market.
Scotland officially requested an exemption from the act on 6 March.
On 18 April, Scotland’s recently-appointed First Minister, Humza Yousaf, announced a delay to the country’s DRS scheme. The Scottish government pointed to the exclusion of the scheme from the Internal Market Act.
At the time, Slater said: “To move forward with certainty, the UK government must stop delaying the long overdue exclusion from the Internal Market Act. This damaging Act was imposed on the Scottish Parliament after Brexit without its consent and creates confusion and uncertainty for businesses.
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“After that Act was passed, we engaged in good faith, following the agreed process, and have done so for nearly two years now to agree an exclusion. The UK government needs to at long last issue an exclusion, and recognise the right of the Scottish parliament to enact legislation in devolved areas without interference.”
The DRS was set to be introduced on 16 August and was to require all drinks producers and retailers that sell single-use containers in Scotland to sign up for the scheme. A refundable £0.20 ($0.25) deposit was to apply to PET plastic, steel, aluminium or glass containers from 50ml to three litres in size.
The initiative was pushed back until at least next March, while, alongside announcing the delay, the Scottish government set out some tweaks to its plans, such as excluding all drinks containers under 100ml in size. Products that sell fewer than 5,000 units per year will also be excluded.
Opposition parties in Scotland have accused Minister Slater of passing the issue onto Westminster. Conservative MSP Maurice Golden told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme that when it comes to the DRS there are “major concerns about the operational viability which have nothing to do with UK government”.
The scheme’s implementation authority, Circularity Scotland, claimed the DRS should stop 90% of recyclable products from going to waste.
The scheme had proved controversial, with fears among small businesses that they lacked the resources to comply with the scheme.
The move last month to delay the scheme was broadly welcomed by industry, although the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) criticised the decision.
Just Drinks has contacted the UK government, Circularity Scotland and the BSDA to comment on Slater’s latest reported comments.