UK government could block Scotland’s deposit return scheme

DRS Scotland

The Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack is planning to deny a request from the SNP for a trade exemption for its deposit return scheme (DRS), according to a report by the Guardian.

The move would be the second policy the UK government has blocked the Scottish government from implementing this year.

Alister Jack has previously urged MSPs to halt the planned launch of the DRS in August, instead pressing them to wait until all UK nations have a unified approach to the scheme. A call that was dismissed by Scotland’s Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater.

Under the scheme consumers are set to be charged an extra 20p when they buy single-use containers, which they can earn back by taking their empty can, glass or bottle to reverse vending machines (RVM) placed across Scotland.

Scotland’s DRS has drawn criticism – some of which was addressed by Scotland’s Circular Economy Minister – including that its regulatory approach isn’t aligned with the rest of the UK.

A spokesperson for the Scottish government said: “We expect a decision from the UK government as soon as possible given that this is what is needed to give industry absolute clarity.”

We expect a decision from the UK government as soon as possible given that this is what is needed to give industry absolute clarity.

Speaking to the Guardian, one Holyrood official said the bottle deposit scheme was “wholly within devolved competence and approved by the Scottish parliament in 2020 with cross-party support”.

However, all three SNP leadership contenders, Kate Forbes, Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan, have now said they will either pause or change the DRS.

SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes has said Scotland’s upcoming DRS could cause “economic carnage” and promised to halt its implementation.

While Yousaf called for a “year’s grace period” for small firms, which Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater has said she is already “actively considering”, Regan has said if she is successful in her leadership bid she will redesign or scrap the scheme.

Commenting on the news, Lee Marshall, Policy and External Affairs Director, CIWM, said: “CIWM remains supportive of the Scottish DRS and believes that delaying the scheme again at this late stage will have unnecessary environmental and fiscal impacts.”

CIWM remains supportive of the Scottish DRS.

Environmental charity, City to Sea has said that if Westminster blocks the Scottish scheme from going ahead, it will not just be a “constitutional crisis but an environmental travesty”.

City to Sea’s Policy Manager, Steve Hynd, commented: “The simplest way for Westminster to have avoided these issues with internal markets would have been to deliver the DRS that they promised many years ago by working with Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish legislators.

“This would have been an ambitious but unified approach across the UK. Instead, Westminster is at risk of dragging the devolved nations down to the lowest environmental standards as they sit on their hands and the plastic crisis worsens around them.”

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