Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf may have his bluff called over the controversial deposit return scheme.
Mr Yousaf wrote to the Prime Minister setting a deadline of Monday to revoke its exclusion of glass, arguing that this puts the scheme at risk.
But Rishi Sunak looks like sticking to the UK government’s demands after Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said it should not change its position.
Mr Yousaf may therefore have to drop his demand and go-ahead with the DRS on the UK Government’s terms, or axe the scheme, which would create an enormous backlash from businesses who have invested in it.
He has insisted that the UK Government’s refusal to allow full exclusion from the Internal Market Act is in breach of devolved legislation. Westminster says a UK-wide DRS scheme would be preferred by the drinks industry and by consumers.
In his letter to Mr Sunak, the First Minister said: “The removal of glass fundamentally threatens the viability of Scotland’s DRS with reduced revenue for the scheme administrator. Removing glass will also have a significant impact on business.”
He also said that excluding glass would put companies at a competitive disadvantage and cited concerns by Dublin-based C&C, owner of Tennent’s.
However, C&C said it had been misrepresented and that it supports a UK-wide scheme. That meant it cannot support a stand-alone Scottish DRS that excludes glass.
Mr Jack said today that the UK Government was giving the Scottish DRS the go-ahead on four conditions which allow the schemes to work across the UK.
There would be a single bar code system and membership of just one scheme would be needed instead of multiple schemes, so there would be no extra costs.
He added that having no glass in the scheme “makes sense” as “that’s what industry have asked us to do”.
He added: “I haven’t had a single letter from a business supporting the proposed scheme that Lorna Slater brought forward whereas I have had over 1,000 letters of concern.
“And it’s those concerns that we’ve taken into account when we’ve come to our conclusion because we believe the deposit charge should be the same and reciprocated across the UK.”
Mr Jack added: “You have to protect internal markets and not have disruption to the drinks industry. French wine producers have told us they wouldn’t be relabelling just for Scotland for glass. It was too small a market so they would sell their wine elsewhere.”