Deposit return scheme Scotland: Green minister Lorna Slater accused of disrespecting Holyrood committee

Ms Slater was criticised while giving evidence to MSPs on the net zero, energy and transport committee

The minister in charge of the deposit return scheme in Scotland has been accused of disrespecting a Holyrood committee by failing to hand over the latest review of the stalled project.

Circular economy minister Lorna Slater was told she had “taken too long” when it came to handing over the report into the state of preparations, which was carried out in March.

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The beleaguered deposit return scheme (DRS) was recently delayed for a fourth time until at least October 2025 to align it with a planned scheme in England. The Scottish Government blamed Westminster for the delay, saying the lack of an exclusion for glass under the UK-wide Internal Market Act undermined its scheme.

Lorna Slater. Picture: Jane Barlow / POOL / AFP via Getty ImagesLorna Slater. Picture: Jane Barlow / POOL / AFP via Getty Images
Lorna Slater. Picture: Jane Barlow / POOL / AFP via Getty Images

First Minister Humza Yousaf previously said the UK Government sought to “sabotage” the project at the 11th hour through its objection to glass bottles being included.

Ms Slater told MSPs on Holyrood’s net zero, energy and transport committee that a gateway review in March had identified issues around the UK Internal Market Act as a possible “significant blocker”. She said: “The risk that was identified has materialised and so we are now working on next steps going forward.”

But committee convener Edward Mountain accused her of being “disrespectful to the committee” by failing to produce the report. He said the minister had told MSPs in March that it was “imminent”, and had said later that month she would “make it available”.

Mr Mountain said: “I make an observation that if a committee asks for a report back in March, and we still don’t have it by June, I think that is disrespectful to the committee. I make that observation with no political point. Committees in this Parliament are there for a reason and it would have helped our session today if we have had that gateway review before us.”

Ms Slater said it was “not the normal standard to publish gateway reviews”, saying she had previously pledged to “respond with the findings of that review”. She told Mr Mountain: “I have shared some of those findings with you today, in terms of that it identified the lack of a decision on IMA exclusion as a significant blocker.”

Ms Slater continued by saying there had been “substantial change in this space in the last few weeks”, adding she wanted the report to the committee on the findings “to be up to date with the context where we find it now”.

She said: “We will publish the findings and the response before recess.”

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Her comments came as she told the committee that money to compensate businesses was “not part of the Scottish budget”. Some firms have threatened legal action in order to recoup the expenses they incurred in preparing for DRS now the launch is more than two years away.

Ms Slater said: “We do not consider that any action we have been required to take gives rise to any obligation to pay compensation.”

The minister initially refused to say whether the Scottish Government took legal advice before announcing the latest delay to the scheme, telling the committee it was a matter “which I am not able to discuss”.

However, she later told MSPs in the Holyrood chamber: “The Scottish Government has received legal advice relating to DRS on an ongoing basis as appropriate, including prior to any changes to the scheme being announced.”



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