Just about anybody can come up with a good idea, but putting it into play is a whole different ball game. Such has been the genesis of Scotland's controversial Deposit Return Scheme (DRS).

There was a palpable but short-lived sigh of relief two weeks ago when new First Minister Humza Yousaf announced that the go-live date would be put back by a further seven months to March 1 of next year. Shortly thereafter Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater, who has been at the forefront of implementing DRS, unveiled a range of measures to address some of the widespread concerns among drinks producers and retailers about the costs and viability of the scheme.

The concessions announced by Ms Slater - such as the exclusion of smaller containers including whisky miniatures, which are often purchased by tourists and taken out of the country - were practical. However, the overall impact was still that of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

READ MORE: Getting a return on all those 20 pence deposits

The Federation of Small Businesses is among a profusion of industry organisations calling for a wholesale review of DRS, adding that this should involve "the broadest range of businesses". The latter appears a thinly-veiled reference to Circularity Scotland Ltd (CSL), the organisation set up on behalf of the Scottish Government to run the scheme, which has been criticised as a forum of major producers and retailers who have engineered the system to their benefit.

Despite all the frustration with CSL, it has in some aspects become a fall guy in this tortured scenario. 

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Described as being industry-led, CSL was set up as a private company which puts it beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act that compels disclosure by public authorities. CSL holds the contract with Biffa, the exclusive logistics partner for the collection and processing of DRS materials, providing a convenient shield for any awkward questions about the financial fall-out from postponing the launch of the scheme.

The Herald: Lorna SlaterLorna Slater (Image: Jane Barlow/PA)

There is a strong argument that CSL should be classified as a quango, and therefore follow public procurement rules on tendering and transparency. Indeed, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) noted in March 2022 that the indicative view from HM Treasury is that equivalent scheme administrators for forthcoming regulations on producer responsibility for packaging wouold likely be classified as being within the public sector.

In spite of the hand-in-glove relationship, CSL was apparently not given any prior notice on last month's decision by the Scottish Government to further delay the launch of DRS. Speaking on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme, CSL programme director Donald McCalman said he found out "at the same time as everybody else" when Mr Yousaf made the announcement on April 18.

READ MORE: SNP Net Zero Secretary claims UK wants Scotland to test water on DRS

It's important to remember here that CSL is running the game, but it's the Scottish Government that is setting the rules.

In the face of widespread opposition to the scheme in its current form - less than 700 of an expected 4,000 producers signed up to the scheme by the March 1 registration deadline - Ms Slater's efforts to fob off blame for the delay onto the UK Goverment ring hollow. Yes, an exemption from the Internal Markets Act that regulates trade within the UK is essential and has yet to be granted, but this is far from the only hurdle that Scotland's DRS has yet to clear.

With just four months before the supposed launch date of August 16 - which itself was pushed back from July 2022 - there were still major questions about the fundamental design of DRS and whether it was ready to go live. And regardless the merit of these concerns, there was a definitive lack of confidence that would have hampered the roll-out even if all the other ducks were in a row.

The Herald: David Harris, chief executive of Circularity Scotland LtdDavid Harris, chief executive of Circularity Scotland Ltd (Image: CSL)

You have to question the merits of paying, according to environmental compliance specialist Ecoveritas, approximately £1,200 per tonne for the collection of plastic bottles through DRS versus an estimated £200 per tonne if handled by a local authority through kerbside collections. The objective of this additional expenditure is to increase current recycling rates of PET bottles from circa 73 per cent to 90% by the end of the second year of DRS.

It has also been argued that the decision to include glass in Scotland's DRS scheme will actually prove destructive to recycling, in part because jars and containers for products other than beverages will be seen as "valueless".

Beverages account for about three-quarters of kerbside glass volumes in Scotland, and removing this stream of material will make it financially unviable to continue collecting other containers, as demonstrated by commitments from Falkirk, Clackmannanshire, Glasgow and Stirling councils to cut their glass collection services. It stands to reason that more jars will get chucked into general waste.

READ MORE: Lorna Slater blames UK ministers for deposit return scheme delay

Many aspects of this iteration of DRS should be fed to the shredder, to be replaced by a more integrated and sound design. That seems unlikely, however, with Mr Yousaf telling industry representatives after his announcement on April 18 that there will be no further delays to implementation in March of next year.

The original consultation on DRS took place in 2018, followed by a second in 2019 before Ministers voted to approve the scheme in 2020. Yet after nearly five years in the making, the project that would have gone live in August has still failed to convince the majority of participants that it can operate effectively.

Even with the best will in the world, it's difficult to imagine that this latest seven-month hiatus will prove sufficient for the fundamental overhaul that so many are desperately calling for.