WE note with interest your Commercial Review article on recycling ("How we've mucked up waste", The Herald, July 31). The sub-text that councils in Scotland are to blame for a failure to meet recycling targets requires a response.

First, Scotland’s recycling targets belong to the Scottish Government (SG), not the 32 Scottish local au-thorities. The SG is also responsible for waste strategy. The Government’s recycling targets for 2010, and 2013, were missed; and its 2020 and 2025 targets will also be missed. As will its 2021 landfill bio-ban target.

Secondly, local authority recycling schemes which were originally funded by the Scottish Executive (2001-2007) through the Strategic Waste Fund were also subject to approval by the Scottish Executive. Inconsistently, other services have been implemented as a result of further legislation (for example food waste collections) where funding and scrutiny of the proposals by government has gone hand in glove; but other funding has been given to councils for waste services which has not been spent on waste, without any penalty from the Government. In fact, the Scottish Government in 2007 “de-ring-fenced” funds aimed at improving waste services which allowed councils to spend it on any service.

Furthermore, householders do not need to use the recycling services offered by councils (some of whom then respond by cutting the frequency of residual waste collections to encourage use): the Government could legislate in this area but has chosen not to do so.

There are several inter-connected reasons for the failure. However, without doubt one of the most significant has been the absence of strategic leadership coupled (perhaps ironically) with a clear plan of the infrastructure and legal/policy mechanisms which would offer the best chance of meeting the tar-gets and implemented in a logical and order which offers cumulative benefits.

One of the most obvious reasons for this has been the fact that the Scottish Government since the first National Waste Strategy in 1999 has had no fewer than eight heads of waste management, none of whom had any knowledge or experience of the subject matter.

A second is the reluctance to interfere on a national scale by implementing policies such as Pay as you Throw and Extended Producer Responsibility. Both have been promoted by local authority waste managers for over a decade.

The “bitty” nature of the system can be illustrated by the most recent announcement that Scotland will implement a deposit and return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers. As Victor Hugo stated every idea has its time and for the DRS its nearly three decades ago, when the first report was sponsored nationally (1992). This was followed by a proposed bill in Parliament in 1998 using the same arguments that have been posited for the current scheme. Let’s hope the DRS will be successful, notwithstanding the collateral damage which will doubtless be occasioned to council services and the private sector operators which currently deal with these materials.

Finally, the 2021 landfill biodegradable waste ban illustrates perfectly the laissez-faire attitude of the Government, which will over the coming days put the ban date back probably to 2025 (to coincide with the 2025 recycling and landfill target) doubtless with some lame fiscal measure which will not help.

In conclusion, whilst some councils must bear some responsibility for their less than sincere attitude to waste services, failure of the Government to meet its own targets is largely of the Government’s own making.

Colin Clark, Inverness, Chris Ewing, Cairneyhill, Fife, and John G Cunningham, Falkirk.