LORNA Slater has said Scottish ministers will give clarity on Scotland's deposit return scheme "as quickly as possible" as she revealed businesses north of the border have spent £300 million making sure they could comply with the requirement to handle glass.

There remains major uncertainty over the initiative amid an ongoing row between London and Edinburgh over the remit of the project which would see each container carry a levy of 20p, which is then refunded when the empty item is returned to retailers.

Earlier this month Scottish business organisations raised the prospect of demanding compensation from the Scottish Government when Ms Slater first raised the possibililty the deposit return scheme (DRS) may not go ahead.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack last week rejected the suggestion that the UK Government would foot the compensation bill for businesses if the scheme is scrapped. 

He said it would “have nothing to do with the UK Government” if businesses lose money as a result of the DRS being halted.  

The Scottish Government has been working on a DRS to include glass, while the UK Government will not include glass in its initiative due to be launched in England and Northern Ireland in 2025.

READ MORE: DRS: Ministers face millions of pounds in compensation claims

Late last Friday, the Conservative Government said it would grant a exemption to the internal market act to allow the DRS to be introduced north of the border from March 2024 - but the exemption would not include glass as this would create a trade barrier with other parts of the UK.

"As recently as January the UK Government acknowledged that it is for devolved governments to determine the scope of their deposit return schemes," Ms Slater, the Scottish Government's circular economy minister, told BBC Scotland.

"This is absolutely within devolved powers. It is the UK that have changed what they wanted to do in England at short notice and then they have tried to impose this change on us by not granting the full exclusion.

"That is an outrageous thing to do when businesses in Scotland have invested around £300 million in the scheme, have recruited people have put in place the infrastructure to handle glass. To now say they're not going to allow that is a democratic outrage."

She accused the UK Government of blocking Holyrood at every turn said not giving the exemption to the internal market act in full was part of a “systematic undermining of devolution”.

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak urged to give go ahead to Scotland's deposit return scheme

The Scottish Green MSP told the BBC’s Sunday Show: “We should absolutely be using the powers of devolution to prevent waste and litter, to tackle environmental issues and social issues. That’s what it’s for.

“Westminster is starting to block us at every turn, on equalities issues, on environmental issues, this is a disastrous way forward and is disrespectful to Scotland.”

Her comments were later backed today by First Minister Humza Yousaf who wrote on Twitter that the Westminster Government "is not just trying to scupper the deposit return scheme - they're trying to undermine devolution."

He added the move by UK ministers was also "really poor for the environment. If we don't include glass that's 600 million bottles that won't be removed from our streets, beaches and parks."


The Scottish Wholesale Association, the trade association for Scotland’s food and drink wholesale sector, which has been opposed to glass being part of the scheme, today welcomed the announcement from the UK Government about the conditional exemption.

“The Scottish Wholesale Association welcomes the news that the UK Government has agreed to a conditional IMA exemption. We see this as a positive move in the delivery of a successful Scottish DRS next year and its future expansion UK-wide," it said.

The Herald:
The UK Government have not given Scottish ministers the go ahead to include glass containers in the deposit return scheme north of the border.

“Our members trade in a UK-wide drinks industry and supply chain. As members of Circularity Scotland (CSL), we’ve been proactively working to ensure Scotland’s scheme is effective and goes live as designed by the Scottish Government.

“However, we have argued for several years that a UK-wide approach made more sense and that including glass increased costs and complexity.

“Glass inclusion is currently the main difference between the Scottish and English schemes so it represents a major change.

"This move will be particularly welcomed by licensed wholesalers who are wine and spirits importers and treated as producers under DRS regulations."

The statement added: “While the UK Government’s late timing of this announcement is disrespectful to all the businesses which have been waiting for this confirmation, it’s now critical that the Scottish and UK governments work together, and with those affected businesses, at pace to ensure that the Scottish scheme can go live smoothly next spring and the UK-wide schemes can work as seamlessly as possible in future.

“We know there has been considerable effort and investment put into plans for glass to be included. It cannot be beyond the wit of both governments to find ways in which that infrastructure and investment might be channelled to assist glass recovery outwith the DRS.”

Scottish Conservative Maurice Golden said Ms Slater has “tried to cover up her own inadequacies by pettily attempting to make the deposit return scheme a constitutional issue”.

He added: “The UK Government have listened to worried businesses who are calling for a UK-wide approach.

READ MORE: UK Government unveil conditions for 'consistent' DRS exemption

“The reality is the SNP-Greens have made such a mess of things that the current scheme is unrecognisable from the one envisaged four years ago.”

Scottish Labour Net Zero spokeswoman Sarah Boyack demanded Ms Slater give an update to Holyrood on the scheme in a statement this week.

“This war of words between the UK and Scottish Governments does nothing for Scottish businesses and producers, consumers, or our environment," said the Labour MSP.

“It is now time for both of Scotland's Governments to work together to ensure we get a viable Deposit Return Scheme that has the confidence of producers and consumers.

“Lorna Slater must make a statement in Parliament this week. Businesses have already made hundreds of millions of investments already. They need certainty from the Scottish Government, not dithering.”

On Friday night, UK Government ministers wrote to First Minister Humza Yousaf and told him that in order for it to allow the scheme to proceed, it can only include PET plastic bottles, and aluminium and steel cans.

With similar schemes in the rest of the UK not due to come into effect until 2025, Scottish ministers had been forced to seek an exemption from the UK Internal Market Act, amid concerns trade between the four nations could be impacted.

Glass bottles are not included in the DRS plans for England and Northern Ireland, and UK ministers argued having glass in the Scottish scheme could create a “permanent divergence” in the market.

The letter from UK Environment Secretary Therese Coffey, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack and minister for intergovernmental relations Michael Gove added that it would be “a very significant step for businesses and consumers, and there is insufficient justification for such an approach”.

Ms Slater said on Sunday it has created “massive uncertainty for the system”.
She told the BBC Sunday Show's today: "The scheme has been progressing very, very successfully. We've got 95 per cent of the industry...of the producers of the industry signed up in March and we're working towards getting the system launched in March. 

"You will start be starting to see reverse vending machines appear in your local grocery stores. We are all systems go."

However, when pressed that it sounded like the scheme was happening, she said the request by the UK Government created "massive uncertainty".

She said: "This creates a massive uncertainty for the system. This removing of glass which is a significant component, and for which the investment has already been put in place. 
"We now have to go back, talk to Scottish businesses, talk to our delivery partners for this scheme and understand if we still have a viable scheme."

Asked when there would be clarity, she said: "We'll be doing that as quickly as possible, but of course it will take a bit of time to evaluate a scheme without glass, and to understand how this will affect Scottish business."

Ms Slater has repeatedly blamed the UK Government for uncertainty over the scheme saying that back in 2020 when the Scottish Government legislation was passed on the initiative, the Conservatives were also committed to including glass in the English scheme.

However, it later dropped glass from the scheme in England and Northern Ireland.
In a long running row Scottish ministers have blamed previous hold ups to the scheme, that had been due to be launched this August, on the UK ministers failure to grant the exemption.

Ms Slater said the Scottish Government had sought it as far back as July 2021, while the UK Government said she only made what they deemed a formal request in March.