Will the 10p plastic bag charge affect Scotland?

The Scottish Government currently requires all retailers to charge 5p per single-use bag (Photo: Shutterstock)
The Scottish Government currently requires all retailers to charge 5p per single-use bag (Photo: Shutterstock)

The Government’s expected carrier bag charge increase will bring the cost of single-use plastic bags up to 10 pence for shoppers in England - but will the rules change in Scotland?

Currently the law states that all retailers in Scotland must charge a minimum of 5p for each new disposable carrier bag.

The regulations came into effect on 20 October 2014, with the primary aim of encouraging bag re-use and reducing the amount of litter in Scotland.

The charge applies to all single-use bags, including those made of paper, plastic, and some plant-based materials.

Will the law change in Scotland?

Scotland brought in its plastic bag charge a year before England, and the laws in each country are different.

While the Scottish Government are not automatically required to bring their regulations in line with Theresa May’s plans, raising the bag charge in Scotland is not out of the question.

“Scotland already leads the way in a wide range of measures to tackle plastic waste,” said a Scottish Government spokesperson.

“This includes being the first country in the UK to commit to a bottle deposit return scheme, banning the sale of plastic stemmed cotton buds, and working towards eliminating Single-use non-recyclable plastics in Scotland from 2030.

“We will continue to keep the current level of charges under review in light of the evidence of its effectiveness.”

Is the bag charge worth it?

After just one year of charging 5p per bag, it was estimated that the seven major grocery retailers achieved around an 80 per cent reduction in single-use carrier bag uptake.

According to Zero Waste Scotland data, customers at Marks & Spencer, for example, used 44,149 fewer single-use bags in 2017 than they did in 2016. In 2017, M&S customers paid out £519,811.71 on disposable carriers.

The money raised from charging for carrier bags belongs to the business in question, but the Scottish Government says it is “keen to see this money donated to good causes.”

Marks & Spencer split the 5p charge (minus VAT), with half going to local charities and community causes, and the other half going to a selection of national charities including MacMillan Cancer Support, Breast Cancer Now and the Marine Conservation Society.