Politics

A Scottish minister has accused the UK government of “sabotage” after it ruled Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) could only go ahead if glass bottles were removed from the environmental initiative. 

Lorna Slater, who is co-leader of the Scottish Greens, said ministers at Holyrood would have to “look very seriously at where this leaves the viability” of the plan, which aims to increase recycling of single-use drinks containers.

It would see 20p added to the price of such bottles and cans, to be refunded to people who return them to a shop or business that offer them.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has said it would be a “democratic outrage” for the government to only allow DRS to go ahead without glass.

He criticised Conservative ministers on Twitter for “demanding” glass be dropped from the Scottish scheme, despite regulations passed by Holyrood specifically including this.

The scheme, which starts in March 2024, can now only include PET plastic bottles and aluminium and steel cans.

With similar schemes in the rest of the UK not due to come into effect until 2025, Scottish ministers had been forced to seek an exemption from the Internal Market Act, amid concerns trade between the four nations could be impacted.

Ms Slater said: “Once again the UK government has shown utter disregard for devolution.

“Scottish ministers received the UK government’s decision letter at 10pm on a Friday night, more than 12 hours after its contents [were] briefed to press. This is treating the Scottish parliament with contempt.

“Despite discussions over the last two years, this is an eleventh-hour attempt by the UK government to sabotage Scotland’s deposit return scheme by forcing us to remove glass bottles.

“This is at odds with all the evidence that says the biggest benefits, economically, financially and environmentally, are from including glass.”

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A UK government spokesperson said: “The drinks industry has raised concerns about the Scottish government’s deposit return scheme differing from plans in the rest of the UK, resulting in the Scottish government reviewing and pausing their scheme earlier this year.

“We have listened to these concerns and that is why we have accepted the Scottish government’s request for a UK Internal Market (UKIM) exclusion on a temporary and limited basis to ensure the Scottish government’s scheme aligns with planned schemes for the rest of the UK.”

The spokesperson added: “Deposit return schemes need to be consistent across the UK and this is the best way to provide a simple and effective system.

“A system with the same rules for the whole UK will increase recycling collection rates and reduce litter – as well as minimise disruption to the drinks industry and ensure simplicity for consumers.”

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