Ministers “in hiding” ahead of deposit return deadlines, claim Liberal Democrats
By Bill Heaney
Updated February 12, 2022 at 13. 44pm
“Scottish Liberal Democrats were the first party to call for a DRS to transform recycling rates and we have repeatedly urged the Scottish Government to listen and learn from successful schemes elsewhere in Europe. But key questions remain unanswered.
“It is time SNP/Green ministers hit pause to avoid their ill-prepared scheme playing havoc with business, harming public confidence and undermining the well-intentioned case for DRS itself.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We will continue to listen to and, where possible, address concerns that have been raised.
“In direct response to industry feedback, the Scottish Government has worked with Circularity Scotland—the scheme administrator—to reduce costs to producers, including a reduction in producer fees of up to 40 per cent and a two-thirds reduction in day one payments for producers that use United Kingdom-wide bar codes.
“We continue to work with industry to ensure pragmatic approaches to implementation and we will do so right up to the point of implementation.”
But Fergus Ewing told her: “Many of the 600 businesses that I referred to are in a state of fear and even despair. Some will close, some will fail and others will no longer sell their produce in their own country of Scotland.
“Unless it is halted now, the scheme—most businesses believe it to be fatally flawed—will damage Scotland’s reputation as a place to do business.
“Will the First Minister therefore instruct a pause of this disaster of a scheme before it becomes a catastrophe, and will she order a thorough and independent review of how better to achieve its aims and exclude glass from the scope, as the top six nations in the world on glass recycling have done?”
The First Minister said she would continue to listen to and engage with businesses.
And she added: “It is important to say that the steps that we have already taken, which I have set out, demonstrate that. In fact, Scotland Food & Drink recognised that approach when it said in recent weeks: “These changes mean that some of our key requests have been accommodated, which is positive and means our collective effort has materially improved the implications … for many businesses.
“Forty-four countries and territories operate deposit return schemes, and only four of them do not include glass. It is, of course, the case that there are strong environmental reasons for including glass. However, on all these issues, we will continue to listen.
“One of the issues that I am particularly concerned to consider further is whether there is yet more that we can do to reduce any impact on small producers, because some of the concerns that have been raised there are not unreasonable.
“We will continue to take a responsible approach, listen to the concerns of business, and respond responsibly in the face of those.”
Conservative MSP Maurice Golden told MSPs: “Drinks producers have until the end of this month to sign up for the deposit return scheme. Those who do so will be financially liable for any delays and will have to fork out up to £1.5 million per month.
“To make matters worse, they are being asked to sign up with key information still missing. If they do not sign up, they cannot sell their products.
“One leading Scottish brewer described that as ‘extortion tactics’. Does the First Minister agree that the deadline for such registration should be extended until the full operational, commercial and financial implications of the scheme are provided?
But Ms Sturgeon replied: “The regulations require producers to register ahead of the launch. Registration is now open. However, we continue to work—this is important—with Circularity Scotland and businesses as they finalise their operational delivery plans.
“The scheme is industry led, and the industry needs to work with the scheme administrator on a joined-up approach to delivering it.
“We have already made changes, which I have set out. We will continue to engage with businesses on any further changes that can sensibly be made to take account of some of the issues that they raise.”
Meanwhile, according to the Scottish Daily Express, Lorna Slater’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) has been dealt another damning blow after the Scottish Government’s own modeling predicted the potential for multi-million-pound fraud.
With the DRS set to go live in just six months, it faces legal challenges over trade barriers and a full-scale industry backlash over its uncertain workings and the massive cost to business.
The blueprints for the project have stated that the value of “fraudulently redeemed containers” could amount to £108 million over 25 years. Between 17.5 and 23.3 million drinks containers are expected to be fraudulently returned for cash every year.
The scheme is reliant on bar codes being applied to every single-use drink can, plastic and glass bottle sold in Scotland, which will then be marked up in price by 20p. When the customer is done with the drink, they scan the bar code at a specialised machine to get their 20p back.
The goal is to force Scots to recycle their waste, however, industry members say the initiative is so unworkable that he and others will be forced to remove products from Scottish shelves.
He said: “The Scottish Government wants to start a system (DRS) which on their own figures will create £108 MILLION of fraudulent activity in Scotland. So they have a provision to enable criminals make money.”
Already Nicola Sturgeon has been asked to step in and deliver an “operational blueprint” in time for the delayed launch date of August 16, 2023, after original information handed to businesses left too many unanswered questions.
MSP Maurice Golden said: “It’s astonishing that the SNP-Green Government’s own modeling for its Deposit Return Scheme assumes that it will produce fraud on this colossal scale.
“Had it been competently planned, we could have had a system that would have achieved its worthwhile objectives and made a real contribution to the circular economy.
“Instead, the SNP/Greens are going to saddle us with a shoddy, incredibly expensive and badly designed scheme that will impose unnecessary costs on businesses and consumers, and lead to this sort of unwanted outcome.”
Police Scotland has admitted that there is the “potential” for the project to be open to fraud. The warning came from Detective Constable Jamie Sinclair, of Police Scotland’s Specialist Crime Division.
In a statement, DC Sinclair said: “Our analysis so far suggests that there is a potential for the Deposit Return Scheme to be targeted by organised crime gangs intent on committing fraud.”
Earlier this week, the First Minister’s spokesman confirmed to journalists that the scheme was not going to be delayed and that it would launch in August.
He added: “We are proceeding as planned for the scheme later this year so I wouldn’t anticipate any change to that. I think a lot of specific issues expressed by the sector have been addressed or are in the process of being addressed.”