Deposit return scheme Scotland: Alister Jack says scheme like building a house without planning permission

Scottish secretary Alister Jack has ruled out the UK Government paying compensation to businesses impacted by the delay to Scotland’s deposit return scheme

Alister Jack has compared the Scottish Government's bid to set up a deposit return scheme (DRS) to building a house before asking for planning permission.

The recycling project, which would have seen Scots pay a refundable 20p deposit when buying a drink in a single-use container, was plunged into fresh turmoil this week when Circularity Scotland, the firm set up to run it, called in the administrators.

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That came after the Scottish Government delayed the scheme for a fourth time, pushing it back from March 2024 to October 2025 at the earliest, in light of the UK Government's decision that it could not include glass to ensure it aligns with similar initiatives across Britain.

Scottish secretary Alister Jack. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA WireScottish secretary Alister Jack. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Scottish secretary Alister Jack. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Speaking at the Royal Highland Show near Edinburgh on Thursday, Scottish secretary Mr Jack said: "What they had done, the Scottish Government, is they'd gone ahead effectively and built a house and then asked for planning permission at the end – Circularity Scotland being part of that house."

He said if businesses sought compensation due to the latest delay, "it would have to be from the Scottish Government".

Circular economy minister Lorna Slater, the Scottish Green MSP responsible for setting up the DRS, has accused the UK Government of sabotaging the initiative.

But Mr Jack said: "The idea that we destroyed the scheme is for the birds.

"The UK Government followed a process. We were asked for an exemption, we moved very quickly when we were asked, we granted an exemption, one that Circularity Scotland said they could live with.

"The Scottish Government have decided not to proceed at this time.

"But it's entirely a matter for them how they formulated and ran the deposit return scheme up until they point where they decided not to. It's entirely a matter for them."

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Ms Slater survived a motion of no confidence in her at Holyrood this week, and when asked if she is a competent minister, Mr Jack said: "I think that's a matter for [First Minister] Humza Yousaf to decide.

"I'm not going to interfere in the structure of the Scottish Government, but I've made very clear I think the handling of the deposit return scheme was poor at best."

Mr Jack reiterated it was “nonsense” the UK Government was to blame for the DRS being in disarray.

“On March 6, the minister asked for an exemption from the UK Internal Market Act that has been around since 2020,” he said. “We used it for plastic cutlery successfully so they knew the system, they knew the formula.”

Willie Watt, the chairman of Scotland’s state-owned investment bank, had conceded on Wednesday the full £9 million loan given to Circularity Scotland could be lost as the firm enters administration.

The Scottish National Investment Bank used taxpayer money to invest in the firm set up to run the DRS.

He said: “We don’t know exactly what that impact will be. But I think it’s fair to say there will be significant losses on the loan that we have made to Circularity Scotland and we will report those losses once we know what they are.

“I’m sure that the losses will be in excess of over 50 per cent, but I hope that they are less than 100 per cent,” he said.



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