SHOPPERS will pay at least 5p for a single-use carrier bag from October after regulations to introduce the charge were backed by the Scottish Parliament.
About 750 million bags are used in Scotland every year - more per head than any other part of the UK - and the move is designed to prevent litter and improve the environment. Proceeds from the sale of bags will go to good causes, in line with a similar scheme already operating in Wales.
Campaigners who have long argued in favour of the move said it was a "hugely positive" step.
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WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: "Charging for carrier bags has been highly successful in changing behaviour elsewhere, so it's great news Scotland is now going to do likewise.
"Single-use carrier bags are symbolic of our wasteful attitude to resource use, which must be addressed if Scotland's vision of a zero-waste future is to be realised.
"The millions of carrier bags used every year pollute our environment, threaten wildlife and take decades to break down in landfills."
RSPB Scotland said the charge introduced in Wales in 2011 had led to a "massive" reduction in the use of plastic bags and generated significant funds for good causes.
Conservation policy officer Alexa Morrison said: "Although carrier bags are only one part of a bigger waste problem, they are a highly visible aspect of the need to tackle plastic waste and can have significant environmental impacts.
"Plastic bags, like other plastic waste, often end up in the marine environment and can harm seabirds, turtles, marine mammals and other wildlife.
"It is encouraging to see Scotland take this step forward in tackling waste issues and moving towards a more sustainable society."
Just last week, a poll published by Keep Scotland Beautiful suggested strong public support for the move. In the YouGov poll of 1037 Scottish adults, those supporting the proposals to charge for bags outnumbered those opposing them by 54% to 28%.
The results show 22% strongly support the proposals, 32% tend to support them, while 14% tend to oppose them and 14% strongly oppose them. A further 14% neither support nor oppose them and the remainder do not know.
Ian Gulland, director of Zero Waste Scotland, said yesterday: "This is a hugely positive step which will help to reduce the number of bags in use and therefore the number ending up as litter in our communities.
"We are working with all types of retailers affected by the charge, in all parts of Scotland, to help them understand how the charge will work and what the impact will be for their business. I encourage them to get in touch."
MSPs at Holyrood backed the measure after Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said it was "time to take action"on the issue. The regulations, which were approved by 100 votes to 12, will bring in mandatory charging for almost all single-use carrier bags from October this year.
Mr Lochhead said the move would also challenge the "throw-away society" and encourage greater use of reuseable bags to "help make the most out of increasingly limited resources and to cut carbon emissions at the same time".
He described the regulations as being a "proportionate response to the issue" and pledged administration of the scheme would be "as light touch as possible, particularly on small businesses".
He told MSPs there was public support for charging, adding similar schemes were "working well in Wales and Northern Ireland and even the UK government is set to introduce a charge in England".