The First Minister confirmed that the controversial recycling scheme would be delayed from August this year until March 2024, just minutes after the Scottish Greens minister was sent out to defend its original due date.
By Lucy Ashton
The feisty Scottish Greens MSP Lorna Slater’s nose was seriously out of joint today when her proposed bottle and can deposit return scheme was left in fragments.
First Minister Humza Yousaf confirmed to the Scottish Parliament that it would not start until March 2024, a delay of seven months.
And the way things are going for the SNP and the Greens, who surely now be staring down the barrel of being thrown out of government along with Hapless Humza and the storm-tossed SNP, it could be without any future at all.
The First Minister confirmed this news just minutes after the Scottish Greens MSP was accused of presiding over a “green poll tax” as she refused to budge on delaying it.
But now the much beleaguered initiative will not launch until March 1, to allow for the massive issues with it to be ironed out by the Scottish Government.
Mr Yousaf announced this during his program for government speech which led to cheers and jeers from opposition parties who have long called for this to happen.
It was originally going to launch in August this year, but businesses across the spectrum, including supermarkets and pubs, had called for it to be delayed as it was not viable to it to happen.
The scheme would have forced Scots to pay a 20p deposit when they buy a drink that comes in a single-use container. They will then get their money back once they return the empty container to a return point.
It has already been set by a number of delays, with its launch date moving from April 1, 2021, to August this year, and now March 2024.
The postponement comes following businesses warning that it will increase the cost of products during a cost-of-living crisis and also reduce the choice for consumers.
A number of non-Scottish-based producers have already confirmed that they would stop selling in Scotland due to the added costs of the scheme.
Mr Yousaf told Holyrood that he remains “committed to this scheme as a way to increase recycling, reduce litter and help achieve our net zero ambitions”.
“At the same time, I – and the Circular Economy Minister – have heard the concerns of business, particularly about the scheme’s readiness for launch this August. As a result, we will now delay the launch of the scheme to March 1, 2024. This provides 10 months for businesses to get ready.
“We will use that additional time to work with businesses, and Circularity Scotland, to address concerns with the scheme and ensure a successful launch next year.
“We have also developed a package of measures to simplify and de-risk the scheme, and to support small businesses and hospitality in particular.”
His statement came after Ms Slater took questions from MSPs about the initiative and was accused by veteran SNP MSP Fergus Ewing of running a “green poll tax.”
The delaying of the scheme is an admittance from the Scottish Government that it would be unable to run properly unless Westminster grants an exemption from the UK Internal Market Act, which ministers have warned is a high bar.
Ms Slater is expected to give a statement to Holyrood on Thursday to set out how she intends to plough on with the plans in anticipation of the new launch date.
Tory MSP Tess White said: “20 minutes after Lorna Slater delivers another head in the sand performance on the Deposit Return Scheme in the @ScotParl, Humza Yousaf now announces it is delayed until 2024. He should apologise for the stress and cost this has created for businesses over recent months.”
Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher called the move a “humiliation” for Lorna Slater.
Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden said: “This delay will come as a huge relief to businesses and consumers across the country.
“They will be glad the decision has been taken out of Lorna Slater’s hands and that they have some kind of stay of execution. But how the SNP-Green government uses this next nine months is absolutely key. Their first port of call should be inviting Scottish business leaders to advise how best to move forward.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “I welcome the First Minister’s decision to pause the Scottish Government’s Deposit Return Scheme, given the widespread concerns from businesses.
“We now have an opportunity to continue working together on solutions which deliver for consumers and businesses across the UK, while helping to realise our shared ambition to improve the environment.”
The news about the delay received a mixed reaction from some within the drinks and hospitality industry. UK Hospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson revealed he was “delighted” about the news.
He said: “Not only will the delay to the Deposit Return Scheme avoid inflicting enormous pain and cost onto hospitality businesses this August, it also offers a signal to businesses that their concerns are being heard and their importance to the Scottish economy recognised.
“Let’s not forget that the Deposit Return Scheme will return in March next year and the next 10 months need to be used extremely wisely and productively to make it fit-for-purpose. Meaningful engagement with hospitality businesses is essential to get this right and UKHospitality Scotland is eager to work with the Scottish Government on just that.”
But Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, said they were “disappointed” by the delay. He added: “Our members have committed to the introduction of deposit return schemes and have spent several years and millions of pounds on its planned launch in Scotland.
“We’ve also worked closely with the Scheme Administrator (Circularity Scotland Ltd) to ensure we can meet the unique implementation challenges set out in legislation in time for the go-live date of 16 August 2023. Further delay now leaves the Scottish scheme in a precarious position and we will be looking to the Scottish Government to protect the considerable industry investment to date.”
So the scheme is still going ahead since the scheme is now being delayed to fall in line with the English implementation.
And therein lies the issue of the Westminster Government wanting to control the commercial development of the introduction of the scheme.
Where there’s muck there’s brass, and like Covid Bonanza, the Westminster set know how to glad hand their commercial chums.