Carrier bag charge could benefit Scotland by £90m

INTRODUCING a charge for carrier bags will benefit Scotland by £90 million, compared with the status quo, according to a Scottish Government report.

Scotland could reap the financial awards if retailers charge shoppers for carrier bags. Picture: Getty

The Government wants retailers to charge shoppers a minimum of 5p for a carrier bag from next October.

At present, some retailers already charge for bags, but all shops will have to do so under the new scheme, designed to cut down on consumer waste.

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A document examining the costs to businesses and shoppers has found that an initial charge of 5p for every plastic bag will cost consumers £14 million a year.

One-off costs to retailers are estimated to amount to £1.7 million, including set-up costs to alter till-points to process and itemise the charge on receipts, train staff and communicate changes. Annual costs to retailers of keeping records and reporting back are estimated at £1.5 million.

But the Government wants the scheme to be “cost-neutral” to retailers, and plans to negotiate an agreement on donating the net proceeds to charitable and environmental good causes after recovering administration costs.

One-off costs to the Government are estimated at £1 million, including advertising and communication, introducing the necessary legislation and preparatory work on enforcement, with a further £1 million in annual costs.

But the document found that comparing the costs and benefits of the scheme over time revealed a net benefit of £90 million by introducing the mandatory charge compared with the current voluntary charge system.

Commenting on the figures outlined in Government’s report, environment spokesman Jamie McGrigor said: “This green-driven initiative is going to have a real financial impact on businesses, shoppers and the taxpayer.

“It’s all very well saying this is a move to safeguard the environment, but that’s of no consolation to struggling retailers who are being lumbered with more costly red tape.

“And people who find it hard enough to pay their weekly shopping bill are going to find there’s yet another charge to contend with.

“We’d much prefer to see an incentive-based scheme brought in, which could see shoppers rewarded - something that will make it easy for businesses to run if they want to.

“This is more evidence of the SNP’s blind determination to legislate for everything, without thinking of the everyday impact this is going to have.”

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “There will always be some costs associated with the introduction of any new initiative. However, the report clearly shows the overwhelming result will be a positive one for the environment and for the taxpayer, with cleaner streets and countryside as well as less waste.

“Those resisting the scheme need to realise that the vast majority of Scots support plans for a carrier bag charge as they know it will be good for the environment and can be easily avoided by simply re-using existing bags or a using a ‘bag for life’.”