ALISTER Jack is urging cabinet colleagues to reject the Scottish Government’s request for a vital trade exemption for the under-fire Deposit Return Scheme. 

If the UK Government refuses permission it risks blocking the scheme entirely. 

Under the post-Brexit Internal Market Act, goods sold in one part of the UK should be able to be sold in any other part of the UK without adhering to different regulatory requirements.


The DRS - currently due to go live on August 16 - will see shoppers pay a 20p deposit when they buy a drink that comes in a single-use container.

They get their money back when they hand the empty container over at a return point.

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.

Because that would mean different prices for the same products on either side of the border, it requires an opt-out from the Internal Market Act.

Otherwise, producers from the rest of the UK could be able to sell their wares in Scotland without having to add 20p on to the cost, putting Scottish firms at a disadvantage.

It is thought around 85 per cent of beverages sold in Scotland are made somewhere else. 

Mr Jack has already warned that the bar for an exemption is “very high.”

According to reports in the FT and the Guardian, the Scottish Secretary is now in discussions with cabinet colleagues about rejecting the plea. 

The move risks provoking another constitutional row, especially coming just two months after the minister blocked the Scottish Gender Recognition Reform Bill. 

READ MORE: UK Government to consider 'formal request' on deposit return scheme

Last month, Nicola Sturgeon warned that if the exemption plea was rejected it would amount to an attack on Holyrood. 

She tweeted: “Many of us warned the UK Internal Market would be used to undermine devolved decision making - and I fear (hope I'm wrong) that this is coming to pass. Just as with use of s35, regardless of differing views on individual issues, it is now imperative to defend @ScotParl.”

But with criticism mounting over the DRS form trade bodies, and all three SNP leadership hopefuls backing a reform or pause of the scheme, the opposition may be more complex. 

One of those vying to replace Ms Sturgeon as party leader, Ash Regan told The Herald she was not surprised by the Tory minister’s likely rejection. 

“Not a surprise from Alister Jack, while the scheme needs work, this responsibility sits with the Scottish Parliament and Government,” she said.

The rest of the UK is planning its own bottle deposit scheme until 2025 and, unlike the Scottish DRS, will not include glass.

There has already been some disagreement over the exemption.

Last week, Lorna Slater, the Scottish Green minister in charge of the DRS, told MSPs that it had been requested as far back as July 2021.

However, the UK Government said she only made what it deemed a formal request on March 6 during a virtual inter-governmental meeting on the environment.

It is not clear what the Scottish Government will do if the exemption is rejected. Legal advice obtained by environmental groups said it was "questionable" whether the opt out was required. 

READ MORE: DRS Scotland : Alister Jack warned of 'legal quicksand' over block

The scheme has been vociferously opposed by many drinks producers and sellers, who say it will increase their costs as they struggle with inflation and energy costs.

Many have refused to sign up.

Ms Slater told MSPs that the producers responsible for more than 90% of the drinks cans, plastic and glass bottles on the shelves had signed up to the scheme. 

It later emerged that less than 20% of drink producers had signed up, as thousands of the small firms seen as most at risk had refused.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We expect a decision from the UK government as soon as possible given that this is what is needed to give industry absolute clarity.”