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Scotland delays launch of DRS until October 2025 ‘at the earliest’

The Scottish Government has delayed the rollout of its Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) until October 2025, MSP Lorna Slater told Parliament this afternoon, accusing Westminster of “sabotage” for excluding glass from the UK-wide scheme set for 2025.

Lorna Slater, minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, who is responsible for the scheme, announced in a parliamentary meeting this afternoon that the Scottish Government would delay its DRS from March 2024 until October 2025.

Yesterday she warned that the Scottish DRS “in its current form cannot go ahead as planned”, and criticised Westminster for failing to act “in good faith” regarding devolved nations formulating their own DRS plans.

Last week Westminster announced that it would exclude glass from a UK-wide DRS, at odds with what the Scottish Government had planned. First Minister Humza Yousaf threatened the UK government with an “effective ultimatum” on the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) last week, suggesting a Scottish scheme may fail to go ahead unless the UK Government revoked its decision on the glass exemption.

Now, Green MSP Lorna Slater has announced that the devolved nation will push back its scheme to be in step with that of the UK at large.

Slater criticised the lack of guidance from Westminster, saying that Scotland was forced to push back its own independent scheme due to a lack of information from the UK Government, as it would be unable to comply with UK legislation which has not yet been written.

Trade response to Deposit Return Scheme delay

In response to the announcement, businesses across Scotland are now preparing to sue the Scottish Government for tens of millions of pounds, according to The Herald.

The Federation of Independent Retailers welcomed the decision of the Scottish government to cancel the launch of its own deposit return scheme in March.

Mo Razzaq, the organisation’s national deputy vice president, said: “It makes sense for the Scottish government to decide now to launch at the same time as the rest of the UK.”

He described the Scottish scheme as “deeply flawed”, and claimed the Federation was “far from confident” that it would have been ready by March 2024.

He said: “Businesses are angry and seriously short-changed because of the continuing confusion. We understand the desire to progress plans combating litter and waste of the earth’s resources but with now only one year between launch in Scotland and launch in the rest of the UK, the case is far from compelling.

“We call on the developers of the scheme for Wales, England, Northern Ireland and now Scotland to avoid the mistakes made in Scotland but still progress as quickly as possible to meet the urgent need for less litter and less waste of the earth’s resources.

“As planning has not progressed well in Scotland, we can see the case for dropping the ambitious objective of including glass from the very beginning. Most other countries in Europe have phased in glass sometime after the launch of the core part of their return schemes.”

Razzaq urged the UK to consider a scheme which enables drinks companies to refill and reuse bottles, and said it was “essential” that retailers in Scotland who have entered into leasing contracts for machines to process returned bottles and cans are compensated for their losses, which he estimated to be around £4,000 a year, “in addition to service charges and shop refitting to accommodate the machines”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Razzaq, who is also a Labour councillor, said: “We want compensated on this.” He confirmed that the organisation is now considering suing the Scottish Government.

Jamie Delap, Scotland director for the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), also commented on the news, saying: “The announcement from the Scottish Government today that the scheme will be delayed until October 2025 and they intend to remove glass moves us towards achieving this goal of a joined up scheme across the UK but there are still questions about differences in Wales and it’s inter-operability. We have seen how positive engagement with Industry in recent months can improve the scheme and make it more workable and it is important for all governments to work together and with industry to achieve the best scheme for the whole of the UK.”

Responding to the news that the Deposit Return Scheme will be delayed until October 2025, UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson said: “Hospitality businesses across Scotland will be breathing a huge sigh of relief hearing this news and I’m delighted that the concerns raised by UKHospitality Scotland have been heard loud and clear.

“The Deposit Return Scheme, even before recent UK Government interventions, was not ready to launch in March and businesses had made that clear to the Scottish Government. Evidently, those interventions have made the prospect of launch impossible.

“This is the third delay to the scheme and it is imperative that there is now a joined up approach from all governments. It’s crucial that there is maximum alignment and interoperability across all schemes, to make things as simple as possible for businesses.

“Businesses are not against a recycling scheme – far from it. Hospitality already has one of the best recycling records in the economy and we can do even more, but a Deposit Return Scheme needs to work for businesses. It cannot be yet another piece of red-tape that is costly and burdensome.

“It’s time for work to begin on a scheme that can genuinely achieve the environmental and sustainability ambitions we all have, with true engagement with business.”

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