HUMZA Yousaf could pause the introduction of Scotland’s under-fire deposit return scheme (DRS).

The First Minister's official spokesman said the new SNP leader was "considering" a delay on the recycling programme, due to launch on August 16.

During the SNP's leadership campaign, Mr Yousaf pledged to exempt small firms from the scheme for its first year if elected. 

But the comments from his aide signal a much more significant change, one which could put him on a collision course with the Greens. 

When Ash Regan and Kate Forbes called for a delay at the end of last month, Lorna Slater, the Scottish Government’s Circular Economy Minister said it would be “absolutely a kick in the teeth to industry.”

READ MORE: Serial protesters disrupt Humza Yousaf's debut FMQs

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

However, there are still huge concerns from industry over the scheme, with many drinks producers and sellers warning it will increase their costs.

Earlier this week, Ken Murphy, the chief executive of Tesco, said the scheme was simply “not fit for purpose."

Asked if Mr Yousaf would consider a delay, his spokesman told journalists on Thursday: “It’s one of the things he’s considering early on, now that he’s in post.”

He added that there was a “discussion to be had” about DRS.

READ MORE: Yousaf's judgment under fire over 'transgender laydees' minister

Mr Yousaf and Ms Slater have already clashed over the DRS. Speaking to the BBC's Good Morning Scotland on Tuesday, the Greens said defining what counted as a small business could be problematic.

Asked if a year-long exclusion for small businesses would happen, she said: “That is it is something that's on the table that we're discussing.

“But we need to make sure this is right and legal and fair. 

“If you exclude small businesses, what does that mean for medium sized businesses? 

“What does that mean for businesses that have already signed up?

“Hundreds of small businesses have already signed up for the scheme. 

“So any solution we put in place to support business has to be legal and fair for all the businesses involved.”

Asked if she was therefore opposing one of Mr Yousaf’s campaign pledges, Ms Slater replied: “Humza Yousaf and I will work closely together to make sure that the deposit return scheme works for Scotland.

“Humza Yousaf is as committed as I am to the deposit return scheme working and for it working for small businesses. 

“So we will absolutely be figuring out the best way to make sure that small producers, small retailers, medium sized producers, are all able to fully participate in this game and it can deliver on the environmental benefits which are the point of the scheme.

“That reduction of our carbon emissions, reduction of litter and waste and broken glass in our streets.

“Deposit return schemes are a fairly straightforward and well understood means to tackle the climate crisis and to improve recycling. They are in place all over the world

“Implementing one in Scotland is a reasonably straightforward proposition.”

READ MORE: SNP MP on Standards Committee attempted to soften Ferrier punishment

Meanwhile, bosses in Scotland’s hospitality sector said delaying the introduction of DRS could help reset the relationship between ministers and business.

UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson described the “looming introduction” of the scheme as one of the “enormous challenges” facing the sector.

Mr Thompson said: “It’s positive that the First Minister committed during his campaign that he would provide an initial exemption from DRS for small businesses, but I would urge him to go further and pause the scheme completely, in order to conduct a full review.

“There is a real need for the First Minister to reset and repair the Scottish Government’s relationship with business, which has been incredibly fractious over the past few years, and pausing DRS would be a significant sign that he recognises that.

“Scottish hospitality is already a huge part of our economy and Scotland’s tourism offering but it can do so much more with the right support.

“We are a proven driver of growth and jobs and I hope that is recognised under the First Minister’s leadership.”