Humza Yousaf announces Deposit Return Scheme delayed until March next year following concerns from business

Humza Yousaf has announced the controversial Deposit Return Scheme will be delayed until March next year following concerns from business.

The First Minister confirmed the u-turn on Tuesday, which follows extensive opposition from small breweries and distillers.

Due to start in August, the scheme was aimed at increasing the number of single-use drinks bottle and cans that are recycled.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The announcement came as the Scottish Government published a document setting out its plans for the next three years of Mr Yousaf’s administration, in which he promised a “fresh start for Scotland”.

First Minister Humza Yousaf announced the deposit return scheme would be delayed.First Minister Humza Yousaf announced the deposit return scheme would be delayed.
First Minister Humza Yousaf announced the deposit return scheme would be delayed.

It came in a speech that also saw Mr Yousaf promise proposals to restrict alcohol advertising will be sent “back to the drawing board”.

Announcing the delay, the First Minister sought to pin blame on the UK Government for issues with the bill.

Making his first major speech as leader, he said: “I remain committed to this Scheme as a way to increase recycling, reduce litter and help achieve our net zero ambitions. But we recognise the uncertainty that continues to be created as a result of the UK Government delaying the decision to exclude the scheme from the Internal Market Act.

"We had hoped for that decision this week – but it has not come.

“At the same time, I – and the Circular Economy Minister – have heard the concerns of business, particularly about the scheme’s readiness for launch this August. As a result, we will now delay the launch of the scheme to the 1st of March 2024. This provides 10 months for businesses to get ready.

“We will use that additional time to work with businesses, and Circularity Scotland, to address concerns with the scheme and ensure a successful launch next year.”

A package of measures, Mr Yousaf said, would also be put in place to “simplify and de-risk” the scheme.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It would have seen 20p added to the price of a single-use drinks container, which will be refunded to people who return the container to retailer or hospitality premises that offer single-use products.

Many small businesses warned it would create extra costs at a time they are already struggling, with a tax hike on all alcohol but beer in the Spring Budget that could see prices rise 10.1 per cent in August.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack praised the move, saying: "I welcome the First Minister's decision to pause the Scottish Government’s Deposit Return Scheme, given the widespread concerns from businesses.

“We now have an opportunity to continue working together on solutions which deliver for consumers and businesses across the UK, while helping to realise our shared ambition to improve the environment.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater previously said the scheme would not be delayed, and her party have now accused the UK Government of “planet sized stupidity”.

Scottish Greens environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell MSP claimed the UK Government's refusal to grant an exclusion to the Internal Market Act was the issue, not the concerns from businesses.

He said: “The Tories are holding Scotland and an entire generation of people hostage with made up rules in the middle of a climate crisis.

“Scottish Secretary Alister Jack’s utterly brazen attempts to undermine the work of the Scottish Parliament - and in Fergus Ewing’s case his own government - has nothing to do with protecting the environment and everything to do with defending corporate profits.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Another major announcement saw the First Minister reveal a proposed ban on alcohol advertising would be looked at again.

A consultation on the plans had been launched, with the possibility of alcohol being obscured in shops, raising concerns about the cost of shop re-fits among retailers.

He told MSPs: “The aim of this consultation – to reduce the harm caused by alcohol to children – is admirable. I support it wholeheartedly.

"But it is clear that some of the proposals have caused real concern to an industry which is already facing challenges on multiple fronts.

“I have therefore instructed my officials to take these ideas back to the drawing board, and to work with the industry, and with public health stakeholders, to agree a new set of proposals.

“I believe that all of us want to reduce the harm caused by alcohol, particularly to young people but without undermining Scotland’s world class drinks industry or tourism sector.

“I am hopeful that by taking a fresh look at this issue, we can find a way forward which achieves both of those aims.”

The First Minister also pledged to “take the workers of the north east” with him as Scotland pushes to reach net zero.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said: “We will never do to oil and gas workers in the north east of Scotland, what Thatcher did to our mining and steel communities.

“We will take the workers of the north east – and indeed the whole of Scotland – with us on our just transition journey.”

Mr Yousaf pledged to “harness the huge potential” of renewable energy and to “continue to support innovation” in the sector.

It was also announced that a six-month trial scrapping peak rail fares will begin in October, with Mr Yousaf saying the evidence from it will be used to assess fares across the rail network.

“I can confirm today that the six-month pilot to remove peak-time fares from Scotrail services will start in October of this year,” he said.

“The evidence from this pilot – and our wider fair fares review – will allow us to bring forward further targeted measures, from next year onwards, to ensure that the costs of transport are more fairly shared.”

Less than a month after winning the contest to succeed Ms Sturgeon as SNP leader and First Minister, he pledged his administration would be “centred on the principles of equality, opportunity and community”.

With plans already announced to allow local authorities to more than double the council tax on second homes, Mr Yousaf suggested tax increases could be on the way for higher earners, as he spoke of the need to be “bolder on taxation”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The First Minister said: “Scotland is a wealthy country, but that wealth is not distributed evenly.

“To tackle poverty we need to be even bolder on taxation, and redistribution of wealth.”

He stressed the importance of businesses – and particularly small businesses – to Scotland, describing them as the “backbone of our economy”.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar claimed the speech was nothing but “continuity”.

He said: “Some of the announcements in the First Minister’s statement today are welcome, some of it is undoubtedly well intentioned, but much of it is rehashed promises from the past that have never been delivered.

“But what Humza Yousaf can’t escape from is that he is not now running a functioning government.

“This is an SNP that is mired in scandal, mired in division, talking to themselves and about themselves.

“The crisis that now engulfs the SNP is not just an indication of how they govern their party, but also how they govern our country.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“For 16 years their culture of command and control, lack of transparency, and secrecy has covered-up financial mismanagement and incompetence on a massive scale.

“No amount of spin or the pretence of a reset is going to hide what is now becoming clearer to the public every day."

With the statement largely overshadowed by the arrest of the SNP's treasurer, Colin Beattie, on Tuesday morning, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton claimed the First Minister’s “relaunch has been utterly torpedoed.”

He said: “And while he is focused on the turmoil within his own party, NHS waiting time targets are still being missed, more ferries are breaking down and record amounts of sewage are being dumped into Scotland’s rivers.

“This is a government in total paralysis and for those reasonable-minded people finally rethinking their support for the SNP, there is an alternative. Scottish Liberal Democrats will be part of the change that is coming.

“When he was Health Secretary Humza Yousaf personally promised to clear the atrocious mental health waiting lists by March 2023. That came and went and it was an utter failure. So how many more years will it be before people are treated on time?”



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.