MSP carries on with 10p plastic bag tax plans

A BID to introduce a 10p tax on plastic bags is set to be revived by an Edinburgh MSP.

Mike Pringle's original plans were withdrawn last year after the Bill failed to win support of other MSPs and the Executive said the tax would make little difference to the number of bags issued.

However, a similar measure in the Republic of Ireland saw the use of plastic bags from shops drop by about 90 per cent.

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A voluntary code of practice among shops to cut the amount of bags given out to shoppers was introduced instead.

But the Edinburgh South Liberal Democrat believes the time is right for new SNP administration to look again at his proposals.

Environment minister Michael Russell today said the Scottish Government was monitoring the pledges made by supermarkets to reduce the number of plastic bags. He said he would be keen to hear further proposals from Mr Pringle on the issue.

Mr Pringle said: "It became evident last time that the Bill was not going to get support, so I withdrew it.

"My own view on this was there was pressure from Labour to make sure I didn't get the publicity of getting a Bill through, particularly as I was going to be fighting a tight seat against Donald Anderson.

"I don't know what the attitude of the Scottish Government is to this but I think the time is right to look again at this Bill.

"In the two years since I started this process you have a greater awareness of the problem and big retailers such as Ikea and B&Q are now charging for bags

"The Bill is fine as it is. There are issues such as how you collect the levy but countries such as Ireland have worked round these to great success.

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"We firstly need to see how the voluntary codes with supermarkets are progressing but I am keen to see what the minister thinks of the Bill."

The moves for a plastic bag tax come as supermarket giant Waitrose today confirmed a "green tills" initiative in its Morningside store is to become a permanent fixture.

The store had been trying out a scheme that allows customers who are not using plastic carrier bags to get through the checkouts faster.

However, David Lincoln, the store's manager, said more could be achieved through voluntary initiatives rather than taxes.

He said: "Our customers at Morningside have become green pioneers and demonstrated they are committed to reducing the use of plastic bags.

"Edinburgh's response to the introduction of the green till proved to be among the most popular in Britain.

"We firmly believe that much more can be achieved through voluntary and collaborative action and the development of voluntary best-practice programmes than introducing a tax."

Earlier this month, North Berwick launched plans to become the first plastic bag-free town in Scotland.

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Mark Sydenham, spokesman for Friends of the Earth Edinburgh, said: "We absolutely welcome the idea for a tax on plastic bags.

"It is an idea that has worked well in Ireland with little complications so there is no reason why it can't work here."

A voluntary code introduced in Australia has reduced the number of plastic bags used by around 45 per cent.

Environment minister Michael Russell said: "I welcome the pledge from supermarkets.

"I will be monitoring the progress of the agreement.

"However, I would be interested in any further proposals from Mr Pringle on the issue."