Deposit return scheme Scotland: Lorna Slater warned she is heading for 'DRS 2.0' after no UK discussions over waste bill

Lorna Slater has been warned she could be repeating the mistakes of her deposit return scheme

Fears have been raised the Scottish Government is set to repeat the same mistakes of its troubled deposit return scheme (DRS) after Lorna Slater admitted she is yet to speak to UK ministers over post-Brexit rules relating to her latest piece of legislation.

Ms Slater, the Green circular economy minister for the Scottish Government, was forced to repeatedly delay the DRS before admitting in June last year that it would have to be shelved and instead brought forward on a UK-wide basis, with 2025 seen as the earliest opportunity to do so.

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Under the DRS plans, a 20p deposit would be added to single-use drinks containers made of PET plastic, metal or glass. The consumer gets their money back by returning the container to retailers and hospitality premises that sell such single-use products to take away.

Minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, Lorna Slater. Picture: PAMinister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, Lorna Slater. Picture: PA
Minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, Lorna Slater. Picture: PA

The UK government refused to give Ms Slater permission under the Internal Market Act, to include glass. The Internal Market Act, which the Scottish Government opposes, requires a level playing field and prevents any trade barriers across the UK nations.

Ms Slater is now taking her Circular Economy Bill, which will set a framework for reducing waste and restricting or charging for single-use items such as coffee cups, through the Holyrood legislative process.

The legislation would set up powers to introduce circular economy targets with associated monitoring, introduce restrictions on the disposal of unsold goods and powers to introduce charges for single-use items.

But the Greens co-leader has admitted she is yet to speak to the UK government directly about the implication of the Internal Market Act on her proposals.

Asked whether she has had any direct talks about the matter with Westminster, Ms Slater said “Scottish Government officials regularly meet with the Office for the Internal Market (OIM) to discuss a range of issues related to its functions, including horizon scanning of potential legislation across the UK”.

She said: “They can involve high level intelligence sharing, as well as more detailed discussions of specific policy areas. To date, there has not been a specific discussion on the proposed provisions of the Scottish Circular Economy Bill as part of this engagement.”

Conservative MSP Maurice Golden said: “The deposit return scheme was littered with mistakes from the outset and ultimately wasted time, money and effort. It looks like the same mistakes are being made with the circular economy bill – this could be DRS 2.0.”

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“It would be deeply disappointing for Scotland if important environmental policies weren’t implemented because of the incompetence of the SNP-Green coalition.”

In January, Ms Slater published a route map and consultation on her circular economy strategy.

The document states “while environmental policy, including waste management, is devolved to Scotland, the post-Brexit Internal Market Act 2020 could prevent effective measures from being implemented in Scotland”.

It adds that “should an exclusion from the Act be required for measures within this route map, we will follow the agreed common framework process, and would expect the UK government to do the same”.

It is understood the UK government believes it is too early to tell whether an exemption to the Internal Market Act would be needed for the Scottish Government’s Circular Economy Bill.



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