By Lucy Ashton
An increase in the charge for single-use carrier bags has been backed by MSPs on Holyrood’s Environment Committee.
The cost is to be upped from the current 5p per bag to 10p from the start of April this year – with Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham saying this was a “reasonable and widely accepted move”.
Prior to charges being levied on single-use bags in October 2014, Scots used some 800 million of these each year.
That number fell by 80% the following the year – with the Marine Conservation Society noting in 2016 the number of bags found littering Scotland’s beaches fell by 40% two years in a row, with a further drop of 42% recorded between 2018 and 2019.
Ms Cunningham, pictured left, said: “We have already affected a massive change in the use of these carrier bags.
“We know there are very significant benefits, we have seen them already, and I would imagine we will go on seeing them.”
Doubling the charge will “reduce further the number of single-use carrier bags that are sold in Scotland” she said, adding this would in turn help “reduce the environmental harms and littering issues associated with them”.
She stressed the charge applied to all single-use bags – not just plastic ones – telling the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee that ministers were “trying to encourage good environmental behaviour over all”.
Ms Cunningham also said doubling the cost to 10p would keep Scotland in line with the rest of the UK, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs set to make the same change in England at the end of April, with Wales and Northern Ireland also understood to be considering the issue.
A previous Scottish Government consultation found 80% of Scots supported increasing the charge to 10p, the Environment Secretary said, as she told the committee plans to up the charge had been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Cunningham stated: “It had been our intention to lay the regulations in the first half of last year, but of course the legislative timetable had to be reconsidered in the light of the legislative requirements arising out of the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, the Environment Secretary refused to say if the current temporary suspension of charges for carrier bags for click-and-collect purchase and home deliveries would be extended.
Ms Cunningham said this “Covid-related measure” was currently due to come to an end after May 31.
Asked directly if it would be extended beyond that date, she said: “It depends entirely on where we are in the context of the pandemic.
“At the moment, the Covid regulation is scheduled to cease on May 31, I guess we are all hoping that can continue to be the case.”