DRS row

Swinney urges firms to sign up to recycling scheme

Bottle return Deposit Return Scheme
The DRS is proving controversial

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has urged businesses to comply with this month’s deadline to sign up for a controversial recycling scheme.

Mr Swinney said changes had been made to the deposit return scheme and said the government would continue to listen to businesses’ concerns.

But he gave no hint in an interview that the scheme would be delayed despite widespread criticism from drinks suppliers, retailers and politicians – including a former SNP minister.

The scheme will add to the price of drinks which is refunded when bottles and plastic containers are returned.

It has run into serious opposition from the food and drink industry which claims its operation is unclear, expensive, and could even put some firms out of business.

One brewer accused the operator Circularity Scotland of “extortion” by demanding up front payments from providers who have until the end of the month to sign up to the scheme.

There are also concerns that it will undermine kerbside collections from which councils earn revenue, and that households will put bottles and containers in the general waste rather than take them back to the shops.

But today Mr Swinney said: “I would encourage companies to sign up. We will continue to listen and address practical issues.

John Swinney
John Swinney: changes should be acknowledged

“In recent exchanges at First Minister’s Questions the First Minister quoted from Scotland Food and Drink who said most of the issues had been addressed by changes the government has made.

“It is important these changes are acknowledged.”

At the weeked Scottish Secretary Alister Jack called on the Scottish Government to delay the project.

The UK government has delayed its own plans until at least October 2025, and even then only if talks with industry prove it is “feasible”.

In a plea to the SNP-Green government at Holyrood, Mr Jack told the Mail on Sunday: “It’s not too late to think again and so I am calling on the Scottish Government to pause its scheme.”

His intervention will fuel speculation that the government may act to stop the scheme from launched as scheduled n August following its decision to veto the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

It may even lead to further intervention to stop the Scottish Government introducing curbs on the promotion of alcohol.

Scottish business leaders have roundly condemned the DRS as inoperable and potentially damaging to small and medium sized companies.

Dougal Sharp
Dougal Sharp accused Circularity Scotland of extortion

While bigger companies such as Irn-Bru maker AG Barr are making plans to introduce the scheme, other firms have complained at the scale of upfront costs and the potential for fraud.

Innis & Gunn founder Dougal Sharp revealed to Daily Business that companies faced costs from operator Circularity Scotland of up to £1.5 million per month to bankroll the scheme in the event that it does not go ahead.

The Scottish Retail Consortium has demanded the government produce a blueprint by the end of the month on how the scheme will operate.

Former SNP minister Fergus Ewing has been a critic of the scheme and today accused ministers of behaving like the captain of the Titanic deliberately heading towards the iceberg.

Scottish Labour net zero spokesperson Colin Smyth said:“Scottish Labour supports the principle of such a scheme but the current proposals are so flawed they look set to devastate business while also failing to deliver against the original ambition.”

The Scottish Government says similar schemes already operate in Europe and it has announced a number of amendments, including exemptions and business rates free spaces for those providing dedicated spaces.

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