ALISTER Jack has urged the Scottish Government to pause the rollout of their flagship Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), prompting speculation that the UK Government could challenge it in the courts

The Scottish Secretary said it was “not too late to think again.”

His comments come as one of Nicola Sturgeon’s former ministers warned the scheme would be a “catastrophe.”

Fergus Ewing compared the government’s pushing on with the recycling programme to the captain of the Titanic deliberately setting course to “hit the iceberg.”

DRS - already twice delayed and due to launch in August - has come under fire from retailers and producers over cost and practicality.

Under the policy, people will pay a 20p deposit when they buy a drink that comes in a single-use container. They will get their money back when they return the empty container to one of tens of thousands of return points.

However, the cost of that deposit will initially be met by the producer, who will have to add  20p onto every product before it is sold.

It is thought the DRS could be challenged as a result of the post-Brexit Internal Market Act which ensures that goods that have been produced in, or imported into, one part of the UK and comply with relevant requirements there, can then be sold in any other part of the UK without adhering to different regulatory requirements.

READ MORE: Concerns deposit return scheme will create unlawful UK trade barrier

Jamie Delap from the Society of Independent Brewers told the BBC’s Sunday Show that despite a number of uncertainties over the how scheme would work, producers now had just one week to sign up.

“I think it's going to massively disadvantage Scottish producers,” he said. “I think we could see a number of Scottish brewers going out of business

“We’ll also certainly see a lot of people based outside of Scotland, just simply declining to continue to sell Scotland.”

Asked if he was going to sign up, Mr Delap - who runs Fyne Ales - said he was still unsure. 

“I've been working on this flat out for the last year and the reality is I still don't know because I'm faced with this totally impossible choice. 

“Do I not sign it and risk not being able to sell my products in Scotland anymore? Or do I sign it and potentially run the risk of bankrupting my business because I just don't know how much it's going to cost me?”

READ MORE: Deposit return scheme Scotland: How Slovakia made it work

The Scottish Wholesale Association said they believed between 20 and 40% of beverage products currently available in Scotland will disappear when the scheme starts on August 16.

The Herald:

Mr Ewing - the former cabinet secretary for rural economy - told the programme that the DRS had “major flaws, fundamental flaws that I don't think can be fixed or remedied.”

“Even to call it a scheme or a plan is misleading because the basic elements are unclear,” he said.

The  Inverness and Nairn MSP called for a halt, pointing to the Scottish Government’s own damning gateway review of the policy which was conducted in May last year but only published in December.

“The scheme cannot go ahead as planned in August. It simply will not work. And it will be worse for the environment because it will add millions of car miles with people taking the material back to the return points and with the vans collecting it there from. 

“I think we need to pause for at least 18 months and that was the recommendation of the government's own review. 

“It said that businesses need 12 to 24 months and 18 months was specifically identified as perhaps the right period.”

He urged the First Minister to hold a summit with businesses and producers alongside Circularity Scotland who are administering the scheme, and Zero Waste Scotland who designed it. 

Asked if he thought the DRS would cost the SNP votes, he said it “inevitably will.” 

“The difference here is governments can be careless, they can make mistakes.

"Government is 99% perspiration 1% inspiration, but here the government's own review has said that this cannot work and that means that it was not just careless going ahead, it's reckless. 

“It's as though the captain of the Titanic when he left and sailed from Southampton deliberately set course to hit the iceberg. 

“Surely, the Permanent Secretary and others in the nice wood-panelled offices up there in St Andrews House should get out of those offices, get in aboot it, go and speak to industry and sort it out before this disaster becomes a catastrophe.”

READ MORE: SNP MSP calls for deposit return scheme to be paused

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, Mr Jack said: “The introduction of a deposit return scheme is a challenging and complex piece of work.

“The last thing we want to do is rush into this and cause unnecessary difficulties for businesses in Scotland, particularly when many are still recovering from the effects of the Covid pandemic and are having to deal with increased costs due to the war in Ukraine.

“It is not too late to think again and, so, I am calling on the Scottish Government to pause its scheme and work with us to design a system that works for the whole UK.

“I think we should be working to create a UK-wide system because that is the best way to maximise environmental benefits, minimise disruption to the drinks industry and ensure choice for consumers.”

Last month, the Tory minister blocked the Scottish Parliament's Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

Mr Jack said having two systems of gender recognition north and south of the border risks creating "significant complications".