Letter from MSPs

Sturgeon warned over ‘reckless’ recycling scheme

Fergus Ewing
Fergus Ewing: signatory to letter (pic: Terry Murden)

A cross-party group of MSPs have become embroiled in a growing row with the Scottish Greens over the controversial deposit return scheme.

The MSPs want the scheme halted in light of “extensive and wide-ranging concerns” over its operation and cost – but the Greens have hit back, accusing opponents of spreading misinformation.

The group of seven MSPs, which includes former Scottish rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing and veteran SNP MSP Christine Grahame, has written to the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying that the “gravity of the defects identified” mean it would be “reckless” to introduce the recycling scheme in August as planned.

In their letter, they demand that Ms Sturgeon “instruct an urgent and entirely independent review of how best to improve recycling in Scotland” for the three types of material covered by the DRS – PET plastic, glass bottles and metal cans which can be redeemed for 20p per item.

The MSPs say that a Scottish Government review published in December “identified that the scheme cannot be made to work as planned in August”.

The MSPs’ letter states: “Around 600 small and medium-size businesses have expressed profound fears about both the costs and rules (which are far from complete even now), such that many of them may close or face financial pressures leading to closure whilst others will simply cease to operate in the Scottish market.”

The other signatories to the letter are Conservative MSPs Maurice Golden and Brian Whittle, Labour’s Claire Baker and Paul O’Kane and Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur.

But Scottish Greens environment spokesman Mark Ruskell today accused opponents of the scheme of putting “misinformation and point scoring” about the scheme ahead of our environment.

He said: “It is deeply regrettable to see this group of MSPs spreading misinformation and panic about a scheme that our Parliament has already voted for and that is based on successful schemes that have been implemented around the world.

“You expect this level of relentless negativity, half-truths and distortion from the Tories, but to see MSPs from other parties joining them is disappointing to say the least.”

Mr Ruskell challenges claims in the MSPs letter on the impact of the scheme on the environment. The letter suggests the scheme may be damaging to the environment, leading to the need for possibly millions of extra van or lorry journeys.

Mr Ruskell says Zero Waste Scotland has found DRS will reduce CO2 emissions by 4 million tonnes over 25 years, the equivalent of taking 83,000 cars off the road.

He notes that last week the UK Treasury wrote a letter to the Scottish Greens Co-leader and Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater which said “the UK Government fully supports the environmental objectives of the Scottish Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and is committed to ensuring that the DRS functions effectively.”

He added: “We are in a climate emergency, and that needs a bold and ambitious response. The DRS is an important part of that response, and I am confident it will be recognised as one of the proudest achievements of devolution.”

Critics of the policy were yesterday accused by the Scottish Greens of making “opportunistic political attacks” on the scheme.

Ms Slater insists it will go ahead and said concerns are being addressed through meetings with businesses.

Dougal Sharp, founder and master brewer at Innis & Gunn, said other countries which had introduced similar schemes did not have kerbside collections in place. Mr Sharp has previously accused Circularity Scotland of using “extortion” tactics to force providers to pay up to £1.5m a month to bankroll the scheme.

In a statement yesterday, he said: “The fact that we are launching ahead of England’s DRS scheme, with the associated exorbitant price hikes here, will create significant grey market risk for businesses in Scotland, that will inevitably impact businesses based here and the viability of the whole scheme, and result in significantly lower recycling rates than we currently enjoy.”

“Much has been said of other countries operating successful DRS schemes and that is true, but none has implemented a DRS scheme after they already had kerbside recycling. And furthermore, no country in the world has introduced DRS within a region of the country, which is in effect what we are attempting in Scotland.”

See also:

Brewer says DRS comparisons are misleading + how VAT will be applied to the scheme

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