LORNA Slater is to seek an urgent meeting with the UK Government to discuss an “alternative” Deposit Return Scheme for Scotland

The Circular Economy minister told MSPs that Whitehall’s demand to remove glass meant the DRS could not go ahead as currently planned.

She said the government was now seeking to establish “what extent there is a way forward for a modified scheme.”

READ MORE: Circularity Scotland urge Scottish Government to push on with DRS

Scotland's troubled recycling programme was supposed to go live in August but has now been twice delayed and is currently planned to launch next year.

It would see each single-use item carry a levy of 20p which is then refunded when the empty container is returned to retailers.

Last weekend, the UK Government made clear the Scottish Government’s DRS would only be given the necessary exemption to the UK Internal Market Act if they made a number of substantial changes.

They included agreeing to standardise the deposit charge and labelling with schemes launching across the rest of the UK in 2025.

Crucially, they also said glass should not be part of the DRS.

Last night, the UK Government rejected Humza Yousaf’s calls for a rethink on that exclusion, saying it was needed to ensure “simplicity and interoperability”.

In his letter over the weekend, the First Minister told Rishi Sunak that not including glass would put the DRS in “grave danger”.

The future of the scheme was discussed at Cabinet this morning.

READ MORE: DRS on brink of collapse after UK misses SNP's glass deadline

Ms Slater was asked about the future of the DRS during questions in Holyrood.  

The Green MSP said: “Due to the eleventh hour intervention by the UK government to change the parameters of Scotland's deposit return scheme, both to remove glass from the scheme and to add significant uncertainty around essential parts of the scheme for example, the 20pvdeposit and the costs to producers and fees for retailers, it is clear that Scotland's deposit return scheme in the scope and form passed by this Parliament cannot go ahead as currently planned. 

“Over the last 10 days, and right now, we are urgently establishing to what extent there is a way forward for a modified scheme, its scope, terms and timescales. 

“That crucially depends on whether the UK government can provide timely, stable and reliable assurances on basic operational matters such as trading standards, the 20p deposit and producer fees. 

“It also depends on to what extent there's industry support for an alternative scheme.” 

The Herald: The scheme aims to boost recycling (Steve Parsons/PA)

The MSP said she had written to ministers in London to “ask for an urgent discussion about these conditions.” 

Ms Slater was also pushed on the viability of the DRS that now glass has been removed. 

Tory MSP Liam Kerr pointed out that while Mr Yousaf had said removing glass threatened the viability, Circularity Scotland (CSL), the scheme’s administrator, said it would be good to go next year without. 

“They can't both be right,” he said, “So who doesn't know what they're talking about the First Minister or CSL?”

“The member and certainly the Conservatives are on very shoogly ground when discussing glass,” Ms Slater replied. “Given that Rishi Sunak, Alister Jack and their own Douglas Ross stood on a manifesto to put in place a deposit return scheme with glass. 

“Not only are the UK Tories, undermining our scheme with glass, but it looks like they're doing the same thing to Wales as well. 

“Glass is one of the three main materials used to make single use drinks containers, and accounts for more than a quarter of the containers. 

"It doesn't make the same amount of business case to run a system without glass than one with. It undermines the fundamental point of deposit return, which is the environmental and litter benefits. 

“Even the UK government's own analysis of deposit return schemes across the UK showed the social benefits of reduced litter, emissions saved and the economy are increased by 64 per cent when glass is included. 

“It is England that is the outlier here by removing glass from a bottle return scheme.” 

The minister said she and CSL were “looking at how we can take an alternative scheme forward in Scotland because the one that this parliament passed has been shut down by Westminster.”

Ms Slater said said she and Mr Yousaf would be meeting with industry representatives on Wednesday to discuss this as part of efforts to “decide whether it is feasible for us to go forward”.

Mr Kerr said the Green minister's answers had left businesses none the wiser.

“She can’t admit that she and the SNP-Green government produced a scheme that was a shambles, heavily criticised by industry.

"And that when it fell to pieces, she and the First Minister picked an entirely pointless fight with the UK government and misrepresented the views of one of Scotland’s leading producers.

“Business urgently needs certainty on whether this botched scheme is to go ahead. And, if it is going ahead, whether she will listen to industry and collaborate and co-operate with the UK government so that we get a system that works.”

Andrew McRae, Scotland policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We now need to get on with developing a system that stands a better chance of working – one that makes it as easy as possible for consumers, producers and retailers.

“Key to that will be learning the lessons from this episode and bringing the sort of small businesses, on whom government will be relying to deliver any such scheme, in on the ground floor.”