Readers' letters: Bottle return scheme too complex to work

Figures published by SEPA on 27 September show an overall household recycling rate of 42.7 per cent in Scotland. Increasing this disappointing figure is presumably the over-arching aim of the Scottish Government’s bottle and can deposit return scheme.

The scheme is superficially simple. Retailers charge a 20p deposit when an individual buys a drink in a single-use bottle or can and that deposit is returned when the empty container is deposited at a return point. But the practical arrangements and bureaucracy around this make it a convoluted project.

Retailers are required to introduce a surcharge which the Government must recover from the retailers. Consumers must take their empty bottles and cans to a return point. A contractor operates the return points and transports the material for recycling.

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The complexity has delayed it and, despite being announced in 2017, the latest date for it to be fully operational is 2024. This is not a cost neutral scheme; government meets the set up and operational costs.

Are there better ways to boost recycling rates than the planned bottle and can deposit return scheme?

Would it not be much simpler to invest in the recycling schemes operated by local authorities? The extent to which individual households recycle could be recorded using barcodes on bins which are scanned by the refuse collection teams while the weight of individual bins is automatically recorded as the vehicle lifts them for emptying. A cash payment or a discount on the community charge linked to the weight of recycling recorded could then be introduced as an incentive to householders to recycle more of their waste.

George Rennie, Inverness

Poor service

I cannot but agree wholeheartedly with Scott Reid’s column on the subject of self-service supermarket checkouts (Scotsman, 1 October).

Our local M&S Foodhall in Dumfries is sorely lacking in staff, and I was informed that things may well get worse post the Christmas period. The UK has allegedly record employment figures, but for how long if all supermarkets are employing the same tactics?

Considering that there must be, like myself, customers, particularly rural dwellers, who can only shop once per week, it is hardly practicable to put through a week’s worth of groceries at a self-service till. Providing a service to customers is no longer a priority and has been abandoned in order that the shareholders and senior management won’t lose out.

EP Carruthers, Lockerbie, Dumfries & Galloway

Patriot games

Keir Starmer at the Labour Party conference, keen to position the party as British with the use of the Union flag in the lectern and the singing of the national anthem, has failed to understand the subtleties of identity.

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Clearly the promise to have no truck with the SNP is designed to appeal to the English voter who will remember well the arguments put forward by the Conservatives in recent elections that the Labour Party can only secure power in coalition and of course that would be a coalition with the SNP.

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What Starmer has managed to do at this conference is to isolate many Scots, English, Welsh and Northern Irish who do not identify as British but are still supporters of the Union. The most recent “Social Attitudes Survey” indicated that 54 per cent of the population has a strong sense of Britishness – that leaves almost half who do not. The UK is a country where the four nations are subject to a central authority in the shape of Westminster and devolved governments. Many residents have a British passport but are not flag-waving patriots.

Furthermore, a Yougov survey covering the period from December 2019 to September 2022 and canvassing the views of those living in England and Wales, found that consistently around 44 per cent of those living south of the border supported Scottish independence. Labour should be about socialism, not patriotism.

Stuart Smith, Aberdeen

SNP’s failures

Reading the SNP’s 100-point list of “achievements” over the last 15 years on the party’s website would lead some to believe that we are living in the land of milk and honey which they have delivered despite the “limited powers and budgets of devolution.”

Why is it then, that I detect a hint of panic in Leah Gunn Barrett's latest outpouring of discontent directed at the UK Government which she claims that, in spite of SNP claims to the contrary, have reduced the nation to the status of some benighted, down-trodden colony (Letters, 30 September).

Perhaps she needs to cast off her nationalistic dogma that is blinding her to reality and reognise that the blame lies in plain sight. After 15 years at the helm, all the SNP have to show for their devolved power are a paltry collection of people-pleasing freebies such as toll-free bridges, baby boxes, prescriptions, free bus travel for the young and old, tuition fees and sanitary products?

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The rest of their much-trumpeted “accomplishments” are in fact abject failures. While poverty, drug abuse and deaths and homelessness have reached appallingly high levels, we have simultaneously seen education, health care and waiting lists and policing policies stagnate and decline. The nation’s productivity has slumped so that our GDP is eight per cent lower than the UK, local government funding has been slashed and there have been multiple spectacular investment failures. To cap all this, we have even lost the freedom of speech thanks to their hate crime legislation. Scotland does, however, have the distinction of having been the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency, even though it is responsible for just 0.15 per cent of global emissions.

The word disgraceful, scarcely describes the SNP’s lamentable litany of failures that diminish us in the eyes of the world.

Neil J Bryce, Kelso, Scottish Borders

Seeing is believing

Edinburgh saw a massive outpouring of public sympathy recently on the death of Queen Elizabeth. Large crowds were in evidence everywhere and 33,000 people filed past her coffin.

Now we have witnessed another public demonstration in the capital, this time for Scottish independence. This is at a time of heightened tension in Westminster plus another referendum has been called by Nicola Sturgeon and she is awaiting the Supreme Court consideration of whether this should go ahead in the next few days. The turnout at the weekend’s pro-independence march therefore really mattered.

In the event it was rather better than recent marches but still nowhere near the size of the crowds for the late Queen. Scotland has a population of around 5.5 million. The numbers who turned out for this crucial independence march were between 4,000 and 7,000 at best. Where therefore is this massive majority for independence that Nicola Sturgeon always claims exists and upon which her submission to the Supreme Court is fundamentally based?

Gerald Edwards, Glasgow

What’s next?

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So Glasgow’s SNP administration is selling off the renowned City Chambers in George Square and the popular Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

With all the adverse publicity surrounding the out-of-control costs of the much-needed ferries to serve the Scottish islands and the unknown potential costs and promises involved with the Invergordon aluminium smelter, will the parliament building at Holyrood be safe from selling?

It’s all very well talking about independence, but standing on one’s own feet and owning our assets are surely a fundamental part of independence.

Jim Craigen, Edinburgh

Powerless EU

It is surely a tragedy for the West that the EU Parliament does not have the decision-making powers of a real parliament. It is merely a scrutinising chamber like the House of Lords. The decision-making body for the EU is the Commission which is a small group of appointees, including its President, Mrs von der Leyen, a former German politician and an old friend of Angela Merkel.

If the Parliament had been in charge, perhaps the sluggish response of the EU to the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014 and of Ukraine itself this year would have been quite different, perhaps even determined and forceful instead of compromised and compliant. Poland, Ukraine and the Czech Republic warned Germany it was becoming too reliant on Russian gas years ago. Likewise, the US objected to the Nord Stream gas pipelines from the very start.

The invasion of Crimea in 2014 followed the completion of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. The EU response was weak – a lot of rhetoric, but the sanctions imposed had little impact and soon faded. Putin was clearly emboldened, because shortly after Nord Stream 2 was completed in 2021, his army invaded Ukraine. It is thanks to the courage and tenacity of the Ukrainian government and soldiers that Putin's attack has been halted and in places driven back. Now Putin has cut off gas supplies to Europe and has caused an energy crisis, inflicting soaring prices and fuel shortages on every country in Europe, including the UK.

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Some of the mistakes which landed us where we are can be put right even now. Germany has said that it will end its reliance on Russian gas. Good. But the powerless state of the EU Parliament must also be addressed and rectified. The citizens of the EU deserve a proper democracy.

Les Reid, Edinburgh

Lincoln redefined

In the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

With the tax-cutting measures announced recently, Liz Truss and her allies have redefined it as “government of the rich and powerful, by the rich and powerful, for the rich and powerful”. The “nasty” party is back.

David Hamill, East Linton, East Lothian

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