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Small producers could get a grace period from Scottish Deposit Return Scheme

Small drinks producers in Scotland could be granted a year-long grace period from the nation’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), which is due to come into effect in August.

Small producers could get a grace period from Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme

On 16 August 2023, Scotland is due to become the first country in the UK to implement a DRS. Consumers will pay a 20p deposit when buying a drink in a single-use container made from plastic, glass, steel or aluminium, sized between 50ml and three litres.

The deposit is refundable by the drink’s producer when the container is returned for recycling to one of 30,000-plus centres across the country.

Producers must register for the scheme by tomorrow (28 February), but the Scottish government has come under fire from businesses that are unhappy with the DRS. In November last year, more than 500 drinks producers and hospitality operators have signed an open letter calling for the Scottish Government to pause and revise the Deposit Return Scheme, warning of a potential “high-profile failure” if the project goes ahead as planned.

Speaking to The Spirits Business last week, Mark Kent, chief executive of the SWA, said there needed to be greater clarity about the scheme – not just for Scotch whisky, but for the wider drinks industry that will be affected.

Earlier this month, the SWA teamed up with several trade bodies to pen an open letter to Lorna Slater, Scotland’s minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, to call for an 18-month legal grace period for smaller producers. And the Minister seems to be responding to these calls.

Slater has said she is “actively considering” a one-year exemption for small producers from the DRS, ahead of the appointment of a new SNP leader. However, all relevant businesses will need to contact Circularity Scotland, the scheme’s administrators, by tomorrow to register, she said.

Leadership contender Kate Forbes plans to put the scheme on pause following a “wave of concerns” from Scottish businesses if she is elected.

Rival candidate Humza Yousaf has said he would go ahead with a similar exemption plan to the one Slater has put forward, Insider has reported.

As the race to find Nicola Sturgeon’s successor continues, UKHospitality Scotland is urging the three candidates to re-engage with Scottish hospitality on the issue of the DRS.

UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson said the feeling within the industry was one of being “undervalued” and unheard.

“Poorly-designed initiatives like the Deposit Return Scheme will burden the industry with cost and regulation, with almost no benefit, and the proposals around alcohol promotion feel like a blunt instrument that will harm businesses, without achieving its desired health objectives,” he said.

Thompson encouraged all of the candidates to visit hospitality venues during their campaigns, to “see for themselves what an integral part of our community they are”.

He added: “If they support our sector, we can deliver even more growth, jobs and prosperity to Scotland.”

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