Busy brewery under threat – Jackie Baillie and Fiona McEachern with visitors to the Loch Lomond Brewery in Alexandria.

By Bill Heaney

Jackie Baillie has joined Labour Party colleagues in calling for Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity Lorna Slater to resign as chaos mounts around the Deposit Return Scheme.

The Scottish Government’s flagship recycling scheme has come under fire based on a number of unresolved issues, including the potential damage to small businesses, cross-border difficulties, and its effect on existing recycling facilities.

Last week during a Parliamentary debate Labour called for a delay in the scheme for small producers – but this was voted down by Green and SNP MSPs. Days later Lorna Slater announced it was now being “actively considered”. 

Fiona MacEachern, co-founder of Loch Lomond Brewery, has claimed that small business owners, like her, are not being listened to. She recognises that changes are needed to achieve net zero but that the Deposit Return Scheme is too complex and too costly for smaller firms.

Jackie Baillie, Lorna Slater and Alister Jack – Greens’ bottle deposit scheme’s a farce.

The most recent blow to the scheme came when Scottish Secretary Alister Jack confirmed that the UK Government has “not been asked for an exemption for this under the rules of the UK Internal Market Act 2020 by the Scottish Government”, despite Lorna Slater writing to MSPs on 9th February claiming , “the formal process for excluding the deposit return scheme regulations from the Internal Market Act is well underway”.

Lorna Slater was unable to confirm what would happen to businesses that failed to sign up in time but seek to opt-in at a later stage.Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton constituency MSP, said: “We desperately need action to boost recycling rates in Scotland and to get our ambitions on net zero back on track, but this farce has delivered nothing but chaos and confusion and has put Scottish small businesses at risk.

“Loch Lomond Brewery is a great example of a successful local business operating in Dumbarton yet they are having to jump through hoops to meet the requirements of this scheme which will have an impact on their operations. It is a complete shambles.

“Across the world successful Deposit Return Schemes have been implemented, yet this SNP-Green government have stubbornly ignored warning after warning about their scheme which is now in jeopardy and lacks definitive support from the next First Minister with none of the three candidates committing to its scheduled implementation.

“Lorna Slater has completely lost the confidence of Scotland’s small businesses and has now lost control of this after failing to do the basics to make it a success.

“If we are going to stand a chance of fixing this mess, she must stand aside.

“This is a small step in achieving net zero. If this incompetent government can’t even get this in order, what chance do they have at taking real action to combat the climate emergency.”

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, Scottish Liberal Democrat climate emergency spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP, pictured right, said the deposit return scheme has triggered a “breakdown in ministerial responsibility” amid a lack of clarity, adverse impacts on business and potential trade barriers.

Finance Secretary and SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes has said it could cause “economic carnage” while Christine Grahame MSP said businesses in her constituency are “all at a loss” and “all confused by it”.

Earlier today, Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater also appeared on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme where she suggested that her colleague Kate Forbes should contact Circularity Scotland, SEPA or Zero Waste Scotland if she had any questions on how DRS worked.

Mr McArthur said: “The Finance Secretary, who presumably signed off these proposals around the Cabinet table, has suggested that if implemented, the DRS could lead to economic carnage.

“In light of this complete breakdown in ministerial responsibility, and in order to rebuild confidence within the business community, the wider public and even in this SNP/Green coalition, will the minister now agree to pause, to undertake that review and ensure that the proposals brought forward in Scotland command that confidence and can be as successful as we’ve seen in countries around Europe?”

Speaking later, Mr McArthur said:“As the minister puts the blinkers on and bulldozes her way through this mess, she leaves businesses to clear up her wreckage.  Asking cabinet colleagues to ring up a helpline shows they have lost the plot.

“Vital questions remain unanswered. Today’s deadline and the rushed timetable for implementation as a whole puts businesses in an impossible position and leaves many worried about their future. Small businesses are extremely vulnerable and Scotland’s drinks sector, jobs and consumer choice are all under threat.

“This SNP/Green Government must press pause and take stock if it is to avoid harming businesses, damaging public confidence and undermining the case for a deposit return scheme.”

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