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Slater pledged not to hit firms over project delays

DRS collection point at Aldi
Firms have invested in infrastructure such as this collection point at Hermiston Gait, Edinburgh

Lorna Slater, the minister in charge of Scotland’s botched bottle recycling scheme, is facing new calls to compensate businesses after it emerged she previously admitted they should not be penalised for delays to projects outside their control.

Tory MSP Maurice Golden said the Circular Economy Minister “must now do the right thing” and reimburse companies that have invested an estimated £300 million to prepare for the deposit return scheme which she has now pushed back to October 2025.

One trade association is said to be preparing a claim on behalf of its members, who include Irn-Bru maker AG Barr and Coca-Cola.

The Scottish Conservatives revealed comments by Ms Slater two years ago when she said: “I do not think that it is right to suggest that an additional financial penalty should be inflicted on Scotland’s small breweries, hospitality businesses and convenience stores for delays that are due to Brexit and Covid, and which are in no way the fault of those businesses.”

Mr Golden said it is “hard to see how Lorna Slater could survive in post” given she has staked her reputation on the scheme.

Mr Golden said: “The two-year delay announced this week was not just inevitable, but a direct consequence of Lorna Slater’s incompetence and refusal to listen to business owners who repeatedly warned that her scheme was unworkable.

“She and fellow ministers must now do the right thing and reimburse companies that have shelled out a fortune on the back of her warning that the scheme would go ahead, and that they must comply with it or cease trading.

Lorna Slater has been forced to delay the recycling project

Ms Slater blamed the delay on “eleventh hour” intervention by the UK government which insisted on glass being excluded.

This prompted a series of mixed messages, with First Minister Humza Yousaf saying this made it “extremely difficult” to make the scheme viable. David Harris, chief executive of Circularity Scotland, which will administer the scheme, contradicted Mr Yousaf by saying it could go ahead.

Soft drinks firms are now said to be demanding compensation from the Scottish government.

The British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA), whose members include including AG Barr and Coca-Cola, wants businesses that have already invested millions of pounds in the scheme to be reimbursed. It also wants the UK government to set out details about how it will get the UK-wide scheme operable by October 2025.

In response to the delay, BSDA director general, Gavin Partington, said: “BSDA members have long supported the introduction of an industry-led, interoperable DRS run on a not-for-profit basis to help support a circular economy, reducing litter and increasing recycling and they have made significant investments of money, resource and time over the last few years to help get DRS off the ground.

“We now urge the UK government to publish a blueprint for how it intends to achieve an October 2025 start date, particularly regarding how it intends to fulfil the conditions set out in its letter to the Scottish government.

“BSDA members remain committed to working with the UK government and devolved governments to help ensure DRS can be delivered effectively and efficiently for consumers and businesses alike.”

The Scottish Government says compensation claims should be directed at the UK Government which caused the scheme to be delayed.

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