In a parliament meeting on 11 February, Fergus Ewing of the Scottish National Party asked Ms Sturgeon what the Scottish Government’s response is to reports that 600 drinks producers are concerned about the impact on their businesses, and the survival of them, in relation to the DRS.
The Inverness and Nairn MSP said many of the businesses “are in a state of fear and even despair” and “some will close” as a direct result of the DRS.”
He called on the first minister to instruct a pause of “this disaster of a scheme before it becomes a catastrophe” and also “order a thorough and independent review of how better to achieve its aims and exclude glass from the scope, as the top six nations in the world on glass recycling have done.”
He said: “Unless it is halted now, the scheme—most businesses believe it to be fatally flawed—will damage Scotland’s reputation as a place to do business.”
In response, Ms Sturgeon said she is “struck” by the fact that many of the MSPs calling for a delay now had previously criticised her party for pushing back the legislation on three occasions.
Scotland initially planned to roll out the system in April 2021, but this was pushed back to July 2022 to allow businesses “more time to prepare in light of the pandemic” (see letsrecycle.com story). The government then committed to August 2023 in 2021 (see letsrecycle.com story).
“We will continue to listen to and, where possible, address concerns that have been raised,” Ms Sturgeon said.
She pointed to previously made changes to the legislation “in direct response to industry feedback”.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The Scottish Government has worked with Circularity Scotland—the scheme administrator—to reduce costs to producers, including a reduction in producer fees of up to 40 per cent and a two-thirds reduction in day 1 payments for producers that use United Kingdom-wide barcodes. We continue to work with industry to ensure pragmatic approaches to implementation and we will do so right up to the point of implementation.”
Below you can see the exchange between the two Scottish National party SNPs.
The two SNP MSPs clashed in the Scottish parliament last week
In reference to the exclusion of glass, the first minister said 44 countries and territories operate deposit return schemes, and only four of them do not include glass.
She said however that the government “will continue to listen” to concerns.
“One of the issues that I am particularly concerned to consider further is whether there is yet more that we can do to reduce any impact on small producers, because some of the concerns that have been raised there are not unreasonable,” she said.
She concluded: “We will continue to take a responsible approach, listen to the concerns of business, and respond responsibly in the face of those.”
The meeting comes as the Scottish Government is facing growing industry pressure to pause the system.
The Scottish Wholesale Association has warned that “without urgent changes to give small producers a legal grace period, where small producers can opt into the scheme,” many products will no longer be available in Scotland from 16 August and prices will substantially increase.
An open letter to the circular economy minsiter Lorna Slater, also signed by a string of other groups, highlighted the “continued lack of clarity on how the scheme will work and the action that small producers need to take to prepare”.
The letter signed by the groups calls on Ms Slater to introduce an 18-month grace period in the regulations and that without action small businesses will be “disproportionately impacted by the scheme’s requirements”.
The Iceland chief executive also criticised the DRS in Scotland last week, as seen below.
Despite warnings from everyone within the industry, the Scottish government is blindly pursuing the roll-out of a Deposit Return System by August. Unless operational issues are immediately resolved, it will lead to much higher prices, reduced choice and MORE plastic for Scotland.
— Richard Walker (@icelandrichard) February 7, 2023