23 April 2021 by James Langley

Scottish parties unveil waste policies

With the Scottish Parliamentary elections taking place on 6 May 2021, letsrecycle.com looks at the top five parties by current share of seats and their policies for waste and recycling.

The elections will take place to elect 129 MSPs to Holyrood.

While most of the focus on the environmental front is on carbon reduction pledges, there are some standout promises relating to waste. For example, both the  Scottish National Party (SNP) and Labour have pledged to review energy from waste (EfW), while the Conservatives say they will align deposit return scheme (DRS) legislation with the rest of the UK.


Led by Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP is the largest party in Scotland and holds 61 seats.

Nicola Sturgeon has been First Minister of Scotland since 2014 (picture: Shutterstock)

In its manifesto the SNP says that if elected it would implement the deposit return scheme (DRS) for single use drinks containers next year.

The SNP also pledges to bring forward a Circular Economy Bill to encourage the reuse of products and reduce waste. The party says the bill would tackle the country’s “reliance” on single-use items and include measures to tackle textile pollution and fast fashion.

The SNP says it would act to ban single-use cutlery, plates, straws, balloon sticks, food and beverage containers, and cups for beverages, in line with that of the EU.

It promises to create a fund for innovation in tackling textile pollution and throwaway culture and to review the role ‘incineration’ plays in Scotland’s waste hierarchy.


Now led by Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservatives doubled their representation in the Scottish Parliament by taking 31 seats in the 2016 election.

Douglas Ross became leader of the Scottish Conservative Party in August 2014

In their manifesto, the Tories say they would bring forward a Circular Economy Bill early in the next Parliament. This would set new targets for reducing Scotland’s raw material usage, especially those that are single-use or difficult to recycle.

Alongside this, they say they would establish a Circular Economy Awards Scheme to recognise innovation in reuse and waste reduction.

The Conservatives say they would work with the UK Government to align the introduction of Scotland’s DRS with the rest of the UK. They pledge to continue to maintain Scottish Landfill Tax rates at parity with Landfill Tax in the rest of the UK to deter ‘waste tourism’.


Scottish Labour currently holds 23 of 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament. It is led by Anas Sarwar.

Anas Sarwar was elected leader of the Scottish Labour Party earlier this year (picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Scottish Labour Party)

Published yesterday (22 April), Scottish Labour’s manifesto includes a promise to introduce a Circular Economy Bill with obligations on the producers of waste and annual material flow accounts.

The Bill would include the introduction of the DRS and of regulatory action to eliminate plastic cigarette filters, as well as supporting global campaigns to tackle abuses in the global fashion supply chain.

Scottish Labour says it would move towards a polycarbonate ban and require food manufacturers and retailers to reduce waste.

The party pledges to support a new litter strategy that addresses the “defects” in the current system, prioritises community education, commits to investment in infrastructure and reviews the barriers to enforcement.

It says it will instigate a moratorium and a review of what place ‘large-scale incineration’ has in Scotland’s zero waste plans.

Liberal Democrats

The Scottish Liberal Democrats currently holds five of the 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament.

Willie Rennie has served as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats since 2011 (picture: Shutterstock)

The Scottish Lib Dems pledge to introduce a Circular Economy Law including targets that reduce the emissions produced in creating “everything people consume”.

The Scottish Lib Dems promise to achieve better use of circular economy principles in procurement strategies by public sector bodies.

The party says it would introduce targets for repurposing, repair and reuse to drive manufacturers towards “system change”, supported by the enterprise agencies for people wanting to launch relevant businesses in their area, and targets for the collection of post-consumer textiles.

Green Party

The Green Party also holds five seats and is led by co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater.

Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie

It pledges to replace the landfill tax with a local waste disposal tax to disincentivise incineration and waste exports.

The Greens also said they will “oppose the construction of new incinerators as they alleviate the pressure to reduce waste, cause air pollution and are bad for the climate”.

The party says it will “keep pace with Europe and fully implement the Circular Economy Plan”.


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