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Scotland could pilot UK-wide deposit return scheme

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26 May 2023

By Glenn Campbell, Political editor, BBC Scotland

OtherWorld

UK ministers are preparing to announce their decision on Scotland's controversial deposit return scheme.

The BBC understands the UK government is likely to issue a conditional agreement that could permit Scotland to pilot a UK-wide scheme.

Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf says he does not know if the scheme will still be viable.

UK ministers are expected to require glass to be excluded from the scheme which was a key part of Scottish proposals.

Other conditions are likely to include standardising the deposit charge, bar codes and labelling across the UK.

It is thought the UK government will also insist on a reciprocal membership system so that businesses that join anywhere in the UK are automatically signed up across the UK.

Mr Yousaf said the fact that he was hearing this information through the media was "yet another demonstration of disrespect" from the UK government, which he said was "intent on undermining democracy".

He said industry had invested millions of pounds in the belief that glass was going to be included in the scheme.

"We do not know if the scheme is viable if you remove glass from it," he said.

However, he said he was not going to pre-empt any decisions about the scheme's future because he had not yet heard officially from the UK government.

Lorna Slater, the minister in charge of the scheme, told BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime: "If it is true that their intentions are to prevent us, to force us to take glass out of the scheme... I'm pretty outraged.

"It is an affront to democracy in Scotland - this was passed by the Scottish Parliament - and it will be significantly damaging to our environment."

PA Media

First Minister Humza Yousaf said industry had invested millions of pounds

The deposit return scheme, aimed at increasing the number of single-use drinks bottles and cans that are recycled, was due to begin in August.

It will now come into effect in March next year.

Under the new scheme, 20p will be added to the price of a single-use drinks container, which will be refunded to people who return it to a retailer or hospitality premises that offer single-use products.

Concerns have been raised that because Scotland's scheme would come in before similar initiatives in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it could create a trade barrier.

On Tuesday, the Scottish government minister responsible for the deposit return scheme told MSPs she was looking forward to a positive decision from the UK government.

Getty Images

Lorna Slater urged Westminster to "do the right thing" and allow the scheme to go ahead

Asked if she would compensate businesses if the scheme failed, Lorna Slater said that was a hypothetical question because she remained committed to delivering the scheme next March.

On Wednesday, the prime minister Rishi Sunak called on the Scottish government to reconsider their plans.

The UK government is planning to introduce its own deposit return scheme, details of which could be announced as early as today.

Speaking on a visit to Rutherglen on Friday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that if he was prime minister there would be a willingness to make the scheme work.

He said the two governments seemed more inclined to find a point of division between them.

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