As SNP launches its manifesto, Scottish Government's worst blunder is coming home to roost

The collapsed deposit return scheme could end up costing the Scottish taxpayer a small fortune

There are a number of contenders for the Scottish Government’s worst blunder and, doubtless, people will choose their own particular ‘favourite’. However, the level of incompetence that led to the collapse of the deposit return scheme for bottles and cans must surely make it the prime candidate.

The potential costs of this embarrassing debacle are only just starting to become clear with waste firm Biffa – one of many businesses that incurred costs in preparation for the scheme – deciding to sue the Scottish Government for £200 million.

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The SNP and Scottish Greens sought to blame Westminster after the UK Government refused to grant the necessary exemption from the Internal Market Act unless the Scottish scheme covered only metal and plastic, with glass excluded. However, whether or not Conservative ministers were playing politics with the issue, as the two nationalist parties contend, is neither here nor there.

The fundamental point is that before persuading companies to spend large sums of money, Scottish ministers had to be certain that the scheme was actually able to go ahead. They had to factor in the possibility of UK ministers, in their eyes at least, causing trouble, exercising bad judgment or simply making a mistake.

Biffa, which was appointed to collect the recycled containers across Scotland, now wants compensation. The Liberal Democrats suggested the case could make former Scottish Green minister Lorna Slater “the most expensive MSP in the history of the Scottish Government”. If Biffa wins, expect other firms to lodge their own claims.

As the SNP launches their general election manifesto today, they cannot avoid their responsibility for this fiasco. While Slater became the politician responsible for its delivery, it was originally an SNP idea and she was just a minister in an SNP-led government. They were the party in charge – or, at least, they were supposed to be.

This is just one obvious example of Scottish Government incompetence. Others include its shameful, tragic inaction as drug deaths rose, the ferries fiasco, the failure to dual the A9, the state of the NHS. And you can be sure there are more that cannot be seen quite so easily.



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