A SCOTTISH Greens minister has refused to say if the government’s flagship deposit return scheme will begin next July as promised.

The Scottish Government's deposit return scheme will mean people will pay a 20 pence deposit when they buy a drink in a single-use container and then be given the deposit back when they return the empty bottle or can.

The policy was due to be rolled out from July 1, 2022. But in March of this year, SNP minister announced an “independent gateway review” of the go-live date was to be carried out due to the impact of the pandemic.

But Lorna Slater, Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity Minister, has been unable to guarantee if the timetable remains intact, and has instead suggested that the pandemic and Brexit “have had a significant impact on the businesses that would make the scheme a success”.

Conservative MSP Maurice Goden pressed Ms Slater over how the Scottish Government is helping a move to a “more circular economy” where waste is eliminated and products are designed to last longer.

The minister said: “The Programme for Government outlines our commitment to introduce a circular economy bill this parliamentary session. That bill will put in place legislative measures to support and encourage reduction of consumption, reuse, repair and recycling in order to reduce waste.

“There are significant economic opportunities in building a circular economy, including job creation and steps towards a wellbeing economy, as well as a reduction in litter on our beaches and streets.”

Ms Slater added: “We continue to support businesses to reduce waste and increase recycling, reuse and repair through Zero Waste Scotland, and, in March, we launched a £70 million fund for local authorities to use to improve their recycling systems.

“We are working on introducing extended producer responsibility schemes, including our deposit return scheme for single-use drinks containers and major reforms to existing United Kingdom-wide packaging schemes, to reduce waste and litter and increase recycling.”

But Mr Golden then asked the Greens minister “an easy question”.

HeraldScotland: Unimpressed: Maurice GoldenUnimpressed: Maurice Golden

He added: “Can the minister confirm that the deposit return scheme will be fully operational and launched, as promised, on 1 July 2022—yes or no?”

But Ms Slater was unable to give a direct answer, but insisted the Scottish Government is still “fully committed” to rolling out the policy..

She said: “We recognise the significant impact that Covid-19 and the UK’s exit from the European Union have had on the drinks industry and other sectors with responsibility for delivering Scotland’s deposit return scheme.

“We remain fully committed to implementing the UK’s first ever deposit return scheme. We want to ensure that we have a go-live date that is both ambitious and deliverable.

“The industry has made a positive start on delivery, including the establishment of a scheme administrator, Circularity Scotland, but Covid-19 and the EU exit have had a significant impact on the businesses that would make the scheme a success.”

Ms Slater added: “In light of those challenges and in line with our commitment to continue monitoring the impact of the pandemic, we commissioned an independent review of the impact of Covid-19 on the go-live date of the scheme.

“We have also been considering wider feedback from stakeholders such as small businesses. We will update parliament and businesses shortly.

“Our ambitious deposit return scheme will play an important part in helping to cut emissions, increase recycling rates, reduce littering and build a more circular economy in Scotland.”