Forbes plans to ‘sense-check’ bottle return scheme
SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes today promised to ‘sense check’ the deposit return scheme as part of resetting the relationship with business if she is elected party leader.
Though a supporter of the scheme in principle, Ms Forbes said that genuine and well-evidenced concerns from hundreds of businesses had to be addressed if it were to be successfully implemented.
She confirmed that the scheme would be paused and – speaking during a visit to a brewery – also said that the alcohol promotion ban would be reviewed.
Her intervention in the DRS controversy comes ahead of tomorrow’s deadline for firms to complete the registration process with scheme administrator Circularity Scotland or be unable to sell their products in Scotland.
Speaking at the Cairngorm Brewery in Aviemore, Ms Forbes said: “The Deposit Return Scheme is an example of a good idea badly executed. If we want a stronger economy, we need to get better at delivering good ideas well.
“In this contest, businesses want to see competent leadership. They want a leader who will listen, and actually deliver change.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and I know that thousands of firms are still struggling to recover from Covid, Brexit and Tory-inflicted inflation.
“Small businesses want to do the right thing, but we only make it harder by introducing overly complex schemes and proposing to ban advertising for key Scottish industries.
“Cairngorm Brewery is a fabulous local business in the national park that takes its responsibilities to the environment seriously. But its director is telling me that costs are really tight, and the DRS is likely to put jobs at risk.
“If that kind of situation is being replicated across other parts of Scotland, and it almost certainly is, that is a huge warning light that parts of the scheme need to be reworked.
“Or to use a different example from my constituency, there’s the fantastic Knoydart Brewery – who are on a remote peninsula near Mallaig.
“You can only get there by ferry, and there is no reverse vending machine at all. To expect people to travel over half an hour by boat to recycle is clearly not workable.
“So what I’m saying is that the implementation of DRS needs to be paused and sense-checked, and that’s what I’ll do if I’m elected as leader.
“I believe in the principle, but the execution has to work too.”
Leadership rival Ash Regan has called for the DRS to be binned. “The scheme, as currently designed, is not ready to go live in August,” she said.
“It has major issues for small producers, with many fearing they will be forced out of business for fears of cash flow problems at a time when many are already struggling. It needs to be returned and deposited in the bin.
“The objectives of the Deposit Return Scheme are good. Wider scale recycling, reusable containers and reduction of packaging must be seen as environmental imperatives for a better tomorrow.
“Objectives of policy must always be underpinned by robust implementation plans, where industry and government work cohesively to deliver on shared objectives.”
Ms Slater has insisted the scheme will go ahead as planned but has admitted it will need exemption under the UK Internal Markets Act and the Scottish Secretary Alister Jack appears to be opposed to granting such exemption, calling instead for the introduction of a UK-wide recycling scheme.
Tories demand statement
The Scottish Conservatives are demanding an emergency statement ahead of tomorrow’s deadline for businesses to register for the deposit return scheme.
They firms are still in the dark over what they’re being asked to sign up to, after the Circularity minister Lorna Slater admitted she was “actively considering” a grace period for small producers.
She also failed to define what constitutes a “small producer”, telling businesses to contact the administrators of the DRS, Circularity Scotland, to find out.
Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden has described the uncertainty created by ministers as “unforgivable and terrifying for businesses” and reiterated his call for the scheme to be paused pending an independent review of how the DRS would operate.
The party’s chief whip, Alexander Burnett, has written to the Scottish Government’s business manager, George Adam, requesting an emergency ministerial statement setting out the qualification for a “small producer” and whether or not there will be a grace period.