LORNA Slater has insisted Scotland’s underfire Deposit Return Scheme will still go live on August 16.

The Circular Economy Minister claimed only a “relatively small” number of producers had concerns over the national recycling project.

However, the interview on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland sparked more confusion over when drinks manufacturers would have to sign up.

When the interviewer told the Green MSP that firms needed to sign up by the end of this week, Ms Slater said that was “not remotely accurate.”

“There's no deadline for the programme this Friday,” she added.

However, on their website, Circularity Scotland - who are administering the DRS - say clearly that while the deadline for registration is February 28 producers need to “make sure that you have begun the registration process with Circularity Scotland before 17th February to allow us to process your registration with SEPA.”

The Herald:

The deadline is important, as producers need to commit to a three-year contract - with only limited knowledge of the costs involved - or risk not being able to sell their products in Scotland.  

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.

READ MORE: Speculation UK Government could block SNP-Green Deposit Return Scheme

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.

Jamie Delap from the Society of Independent Brewers said he believed it would push a number of Scottish out of business

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.

READ MORE: OPINION: This deposit scheme madness puts even the ferries scandal to shame

However, Ms Slater said it was “all systems go” for the initiative. She said only a small number of firms had concerns. 

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Ms Slater continued: “Our scheme is very similar to successful schemes around the world that do increase recycling but also reduce litter on our streets.

“We’ve got to do something about it and the deposit return scheme is our answer to that.”

She said she was “really proud” that Scotland would be the first part of the UK to have a deposit return scheme in place.

Ms Slater continued: “The Scottish Parliament passed the legislation on this back in 2020 and we have been working really closely with industry towards this August launch date. In fact, we already pushed it back by a year to allow businesses to recover after Covid.

“And now we have been working through concerns of industry.”

"This is a really big scheme," she said. "This involves big retailers. It involves small grocery stores, it involves big producers, it involves small producers.

"This is a massive scheme. As I've said, we've been working systematically through the issues to make sure we can deliver it, giving industry extra time, reducing the cost to producers, working through the issues on the VAT.

"We're just systematically working through this.

"There are a relatively small number of small producers who still have some concerns and we're working with those so that they can get signed up within the deadline."

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

The minister said they had put some proposals on the table which the government was now looking at.

Earlier on the programme, Chris Jones, managing director of Manchester-based Paragon Brands, said: “I am part of a wider drinks forum group of approximately 300 smaller producers and it is fair to say there is a huge number of smaller producers who have simply taken the option to stop selling in Scotland.

“The complications and the cost and the complexity involved in setting yourself up for this scheme just mean that the commercial returns are not there.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden said Ms Slater's insistence than the scheme would launch in August was like "someone putting their foot down at a red light and heading straight into a major pile-up."

He added: “Businesses have to sign up to this scheme within a matter of days without any idea of the costs involved. Small producers say that they will be driven out of business or won’t be able to trade in Scotland. Wholesale experts predict many products will double in price and about 20-40% will simply be taken off Scottish shelves.

“Lorna Slater herself admits she’s still ‘working on solutions’ and is ‘going away to have a look at’ objections from a meeting last Friday. She doesn’t even seem to know the deadline Circularity Scotland has published.

“Scottish businesses are being expected to sign up to a pig in a poke with enormous potential risks and liabilities.

“There’s no chance – as the SNP-Green Government’s own review said – of this scheme working properly by August.

"Lorna Slater’s plans to plough on regardless are deeply irresponsible, threaten thousands of jobs, pile huge costs on consumers and greatly reduce choice. This scheme should be paused immediately until it is fit for purpose.”

Meanwhile, Kim Pratt from Friends of the Earth Scotland warned the government against delaying DRS any further. 

She said: “Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme must start on time in August 2023. Businesses in Scotland have had five years to prepare for DRS and many of them will already be familiar with how these schemes operate in other countries.

"It’s time for Circularity Scotland, the industry-led scheme administrator, to deliver the planned DRS to the people of Scotland without delay."