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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
01 March 2023
Deposit return scheme: Lorna Slater under pressure as MSPs claim just 16 per cent of firms have signed up

Deposit return scheme: Lorna Slater under pressure as MSPs claim just 16 per cent of firms have signed up

Scottish Government minister Lorna Slater has been accused of “desperately spinning” sign-up numbers for the deposit return scheme (DRS) amid claims that fewer than one in five producers have done so.

The circular economy minister told the Scottish Parliament that “drink producers representing over 90 per cent of the total volume of drinks containers sold in Scotland each year have completed registration with Circularity Scotland for Scotland’s deposit return scheme”.  

But Tory MSP Maurice Golden claimed that following last night’s registration deadline for the scheme’s launch in August this year, only “664 out 4,000 [drinks producers] operating in Scotland” had signed up to the scheme.   

Golden accused the minister of “desperately spinning” the sign-up numbers telling her that the “reality is it works out to barely 16 per cent” of firms operating in Scotland.  

Slater was asked for clarity on the figures by MSPs from across the chamber but did not directly address the specific line of questioning, rather answering with the percentage of total volume of drinks containers attributed to the firms that have signed up.

She told Tory MSP Craig Hoy: “It is a misunderstanding by the member to understand what makes the scheme viable and what builds the momentum.

“The deposit return scheme is based on proportionality. Therefore, the largest producers contribute the most to this scheme.”

Slater confirmed that businesses who have not yet signed up to the scheme, although past the deadline, will still be able to register and that she “will continue to work to bring on board those small businesses”.

The minister took aim at Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack following his comments that the Scottish Government had not put in an official request for the DRS scheme to be made exempt from the Internal Market Act. Slater told members “that is not true”.  

She said: “The Scottish Government has sought that exemption since July 2021.  

“It was discussed in the November 2022 Inter-Ministerial Group, in official-level meetings and at a ministerial meeting in January 2023.

“Despite this, so serious was the continued failure of the UK Government to come to a decision on the IMA exemption, the issue was escalated to Deputy First Minister John Swinney in January.”

Green MSP Mark Ruskell called for Jack to resign, while SNP MSP Fiona Hyslop called for Rishi Sunak to sack him for his comments.  

But Golden said he had confirmation from the UK Government that “no official request for internal market exemption has been received” and that “this is a desperate attempt to shift blame for a homemade shambles”.

Fergus Ewing MSP implored the minister to halt the scheme immediately citing the costs that will be taken on by businesses between now and the middle of April, when a new leader of the SNP will be chosen. The former business minister warned of the millions of pounds that could be “wasted” by firms in the period on DRS if the next first minister was to halt the scheme.  

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Read the most recent article written by Ruaraidh Gilmour - Scotland's circular economy: What goes around comes around.

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