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Businesses welcome DRS glass exclusion despite Holyrood outrage

Scottish businesses have welcomed the government’s decision to exclude glass from the UK-wide Deposit Return Scheme, despite an outcry from Holyrood accusing Westminster of “sabotage” and an attempt to “undermine devolution”.

Businesses welcome DRS glass exclusion despite Holyrood outrage

The UK government published a policy statement on the Scottish Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) on Saturday (27 May) after considering Holyrood’s request for an exclusion from the UK Internal Market Act 2020, which would allow Scotland to undertake an entirely separate DRS.

Scotland has been granted a “temporary exclusion” from the UK-wide DRS from its launch in March 2024 up until schemes are implemented across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, at which time it will be required to comply with the UK-wide roll-out.

Glass will no longer be permitted to be included in any DRS across the UK, Westminster concluded in its statement, stating that “the inclusion of glass would add cost and complexity to the schemes in particular to hospitality and retail sectors, as well as adding consumer inconvenience”.

The decision was made to avoid “unnecessary barriers to trade”, the UK government wrote in the policy statement, as separate schemes across Scotland and the rest of the UK would reduce “interoperability” and compatibility, creating major challenges for Scottish producers and retailers.

Scotland’s Retail Consortium warned earlier this month that proposed “unworkable, unsustainable, and undeliverable” amendments to the country’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) could lead to supermarkets ending online sales in the country.

And producers have been vocal about the “chaotic and poorly designed” DRS, under the care of Scottish circular economy minister Lorna Slater.

Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s First Minister, has said it would be a “democratic outrage” for the UK government to only allow DRS to go ahead without glass, and Slater accused the UK government of “sabotage” at the “11th hour”.

However, the trade has welcomed Westminster stepping in to enforce the exclusion of glass. Leon Thompson, UKHospitality Scotland executive director, said of the news: “We have maintained throughout this process that a UK-wide scheme is essential to make the Deposit Return Scheme a success, particularly for businesses.”

A spokesperson from the Scotch Whisky Association spoke to db this morning, describing the new policy as a “welcome compromise to enable a scheme which has been fraught with difficulties to operate in Scotland from March next year”.

They added: “The Scotch Whisky industry has long called for the exclusion of glass from the scheme to better enable it to be successful, in line with the example of other successful international DRS. More fully aligning the scheme with other parts of the UK will reduce cost and complexity for business and consumers.

“We are committed to creating a more circular economy as part of our sustainability objectives, and removing glass from the scheme will enable the Scottish DRS to get on reducing waste and litter, while maintaining the high level of glass recycling and reuse in Scotland.”

However, the friction between the UK government and Holyrood is the latest complication in a process wrought with complications. Thompson added: “Reaching this point, however, is once again indicative of the delays and uncertainty that have become synonymous with the Deposit Return Scheme.

“Hospitality businesses have sunk millions into preparing for a scheme and will likely have to spend more once again to meet new requirements. For the sake of businesses, I hope we get a decision and clarity as soon as possible.”

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