Now, following talks with circular economy minister Lorna Slater, the Scottish Retail Consortium has spoken out in alarming terms, warning people could face higher prices and reduced choice in the shops from August, when the scheme is due to go live, because of unresolved issues with its operation.
A call by Ewan MacDonald-Russell, of the SRC, for a “complete operational blueprint” to be published by the end of this month hardly seems unreasonable. If Slater is unable to provide a comprehensive explanation of her plans, then there seems little option but to delay its implementation to a later date.
This may cause some political embarrassment, but the damage that would be done to the credibility of the Scottish Government, and the potential damage to the economy, would be far greater if the scheme was allowed to go ahead with significant problems. It is just common sense that retailers, who will be directly involved in running the system, need to know how it is going to work.
There also appears to be confusion among some leading drinks companies about what will happen, with Dougal Sharp, founder of Edinburgh-based brewers Innis & Gunn, expressing concern about the “huge amount of infrastructure that needs to be put in place to actually get this scheme to launch – recycling centres, vehicles, drivers” and the potential costs to his business.
It is hardly surprising that retailers and producers – those with the greatest financial stake in all this – are alarmed and fretful if they are still unclear about the details at this late stage. And yet the Scottish Government and Circularity Scotland, which will run the scheme, are pressing ahead. We hope to be proved wrong, but this appears to be shaping up to become the latest in a string of ill-considered legislation emanating from Holyrood.
Most people are familiar with the simple idea of paying a deposit for a bottle, to be reclaimed when the empty is returned. Given the lack of understanding about the Scottish Government’s plans, might they be overly complicated? Could they have unintended consequences? Has this been properly thought through?
Particularly in times of trouble, public tolerance of government incompetence that makes things worse is likely to be minimal.