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24 hours to save businesses from “cataclysmic” Deposit Return Scheme

The Scottish Conservatives are demanding an emergency statement tomorrow on the “cataclysmic” Deposit Return Scheme after warning ministers there are just 24 hours to save Scottish businesses.

Tomorrow is the deadline for businesses to register for the Scottish Government recycling system – which is due to go live in August – or they will be unable to continue trading in Scotland.

Yet these firms are still in the dark over what they’re being asked to sign up to, after the Green minister responsible, Lorna Slater, yesterday told the BBC Sunday Show that she was “actively considering” a grace period for small producers.

She also failed to define what constitutes a “small producer”, telling businesses to contact the administrators of the DRS, Circularity Scotland, to find out.

Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden has described the uncertainty created by ministers as “unforgivable and terrifying for businesses” and reiterated his call for the scheme to be paused pending an independent review of how the DRS would operate.

To that end, the party’s chief whip, Alexander Burnett, has written to the Scottish Government’s business manager, George Adam, requesting an emergency ministerial statement setting out the qualification for a “small producer” and whether or not there will be a grace period.

Maurice Golden added that clarity was essential to “lift the cloud of uncertainty and fear hanging over” drinks producers, wholesalers and the hospitality industry – especially as all three SNP leadership candidates have voiced concerns with the DRS in its current form.

Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden said: “Lorna Slater’s mix of incompetence and stubbornness is unforgivable and terrifying for businesses.

“They find themselves in the impossible position of being asked to sign up blind to a costly scheme that could bankrupt them, or be banned from trading in Scotland in less than six months’ time.

“It should never have got to the stage where, on the eve of the deadline, key questions about the scheme remain unanswered – such as, will there be a grace period for small producers and, if so, what is a ‘small producer’. But, astonishingly, that’s where we are.

“This could be cataclysmic for the firms affected. It’s no exaggeration to say there are 24 hours to save Scottish businesses. That is why we must have an emergency ministerial statement tomorrow – to lift the cloud of uncertainty and fear hanging over them.

“Lorna Slater must take her head out of the sand and announce, in that statement, that the introduction of her shamefully botched DRS is to be paused pending an independent review.

“We all support the principle behind the DRS but in its current form it’s not fit for purpose and risks signalling the death knell for Scottish businesses, which face being burdened with unsustainable costs.


“Lorna Slater has to see this. If she refuses to, Nicola Sturgeon must make her see it.”





Humza Yousaf said he would exclude small businesses from the Deposit Return Scheme for the first year of its operation. Yousaf told the Press and Journal: ‘If I’m elected first minister then I will exclude small businesses for the first year of operation of that scheme. Because it’s not the craft breweries, or craft gin makers, that are the ones causing the issues. It’s the big producers that are the ones that we should be targeting.’ (Press and Journal, 26 February 2023, link).

Kate Forbes said she has raised concerns about DRS. She said: “I have raised it with the Minister responsible on a number of occasions… any scheme has got to work for all of Scotland. We need to identify why businesses are up in arms, how to adapt the scheme and then deliver a scheme that actually is going to achieve its aims.” She added: “The wave of concern needs us to pause, review the pressures and look at this in the context of businesses who are at the moment overwhelmed.” (Scottish Mail on Sunday, 26 February 2023, link)

Ash Regan explained she wouldn’t be ‘forcing’ through the SNP’s Deposit Return Scheme and would listen to the ‘legitimate concerns’ from business. In an interview with the Sunday Mail, the SNP leadership candidate said: “I want to help business flourish rather than hitting them with new rules and regulations, so for example we need to look at things like the deposit return scheme. I’m not saying that it can’t be made to work but I would not be forcing it through when it is not ready and ignoring serious and legitimate concerns from business. We need to listen.” She further warned: “You have to be really careful at the moment – businesses are struggling, energy costs and Brexit are taking a huge toll and we the Scottish Government shouldn’t be making things even more difficult.” (Daily Record, 19 February 2023, link)