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Trade groups unite to demand DRS is delayed

Liz Cameron
Liz Cameron: poorly-designed scheme (pic: Terry Murden)

A number of trade organisations representing thousands of businesses in Scotland have issued a joint call on the Scottish Government to delay and review the Deposit Return Scheme.

In a joint letter to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, the group says businesses have spent time and resources preparing for the introduction of the bottle and can initiative, but remain concerned that a fit-for-purpose scheme can be delivered in the summer as planned.

With only a fraction of companies registering by last week’s deadline, the group of 10 associations insists that “to press on with an August 16 launch would be reckless”.

The letter adds: “In its current form, and without change, it is destined to fail and inflict unnecessary economic harm on Scotland’s businesses.”

It was delivered as a meeting between Scottish and UK ministers yesterday led to a call for the deposit return scheme to be exempt from laws set under the UK Internal Market Act.

Critics said the Scottish Government was wrong when it said a request had been made earlier this year.

The Scottish government insists the correct process had been followed for requesting an exemption. A spokesman said: “We expect the UK government to come to a view as soon as possible, to give industry absolute clarity.”

The signatories to the letter are the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses. CBI Scotland, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, Scotch Whisky Association, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Society of Independent Brewers, Scottish Wholesale Association, UK Hospitality and the Wine & Spirits Trade Association.

Director and chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Liz Cameron, said: “It’s been clear to the business community for some time that operating this poorly-designed scheme in its current form is impossible and is adding unnecessary cost pressures on businesses.

“We are not alone in voicing our concerns – all three candidates for the Scottish National Party leadership contest have expressed their reservations too.

“The roll-out of DRS must be delayed and redesigned in partnership with the business community. This is the only route now available to make it fit for purpose and restore business confidence in this scheme.”

FSB Scotland policy chair, Andrew McRae, added: “After years of crises and climbing costs, small businesses don’t need the cost and stress of a chaotic implementation of the DRS adding to their burdens. The ambitions of the scheme are laudable but its architects have failed to fully comprehend the implications of its rollout for the myriad of smaller traders who will struggle to comply.

“It is essential that the Scottish Government stop and take stock of the significant concerns raised by the thousands of operators who want to do their bit but can’t make the scheme work in their business.”

The full text of the letter:

Dear First Minister,

Deposit Return Scheme must be delayed

We are all determined to play our part in driving sustainability, enabling a circular economy, improving recycling rates and tackling waste and litter. We share the objectives that DRS was set out to deliver, but in its current form, and without change, it is destined to fail.

For months business groups and trade associations have sought clarity on how the scheme will function and have made comprehensive suggestions that could make it work. In good faith, businesses across Scotland have spent precious time and resources to understand and implement the scheme. But it is clear to us now that these efforts, and those of trade associations that have worked so hard to make the scheme work, have not been matched by Ministers and will not deliver a DRS fit for purpose.

With the deadline for registration having elapsed with fewer than one in five producers registered, we have heard from the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity that businesses want DRS to continue. We can tell you businesses the length and breadth of Scotland’s communities do not.

Instead we believe we need to delay, review and rethink DRS plans, and give businesses more time to prepare and allow them to sign up for a scheme in which they can have confidence will deliver and without taking on unacceptable liability.

You will know the economic conditions in which Scotland’s businesses are operating, with inflationary pressures hitting bottom lines. You will know the economic recovery following the pandemic is fragile, and not to be taken for granted. You will also know the pressure hard-pressed businesses and consumers are under. Given this, pressing on with DRS in its current form would be reckless.

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