Deposit return scheme: Scottish Government must compensate businesses left out of pocket because of its incompetence – Scotsman comment

When some drinks firms and retailers warned they could be put out of business by the Scottish Government’s flawed deposit return scheme (DRS) for bottles and cans, circular economy minister Lorna Slater pressed on.

When thousands of small companies failed to sign up by the deadline, she insisted it would go ahead as planned in August, while conceding there were “still some outstanding concerns” and that they were “working through solutions”.

The postponement until next year was a belated recognition of reality. Not only were the scheme’s final details unclear, but the UK Government had not granted the necessary exemption from its Internal Market Act. So there was no certainty DRS would actually become law.

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Unsurprisingly, there have been calls for Slater to be sacked. But, whatever her fate, the Scottish Government must certainly now compensate any businesses left out of pocket by the delay. Mo Razzaq, deputy vice president of the Federation of Independent Retailers, said they had supported the idea of DRS from the outset, but added: “Many of our members have spent large sums of money buying reverse vending machines and altering the layout of their stores to be prepared for the launch.”

It’s hard to see how the Scottish Government could make a moral case for refusal. They are responsible and should pay. And to fail to do so would almost certainly cause them more problems. Many businesses will be thinking twice about spending money on preparations for the new deadline of March next year. If they know they will not be compensated for further delays, that number will increase.

There is also a broader point to be made. There is an autocratic streak within both the SNP and the Greens, in which government is something that happens to people, rather than with their permission and consent. To effectively say, ‘do this or we will put you out of business’ is state intimidation.

There are pressing reasons to move towards a low-carbon, ‘circular’ economy. However such an all-encompassing process will be hugely complicated, so it must be handled competently, with close attention to detail, and in a way that builds consensus. Issuing vague diktats that can’t actually be enforced, then backtracking, about something so important to the future of this country is a recipe for a disaster of historic proportions.



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