Work is on-going to finalise the preferred design for a Scottish deposit return scheme, in line with the commitment contained in the 2018-19 programme for government. In doing so, we are giving careful consideration to the views that have been expressed by the more than 3,000 individuals and organisations across the country who responded to the public consultation on the proposals. We recognise the need for any scheme to properly take into account the interests of retailers while reflecting the needs of members of the public across the country, who will require convenient access to return points if the scheme is to be a success.
There is an active discussion about all aspects of our proposed deposit return scheme. Exemption proposals have been put forward by some organisations. The member is right that conversations with those organisations have been going on for a considerable time; indeed, they stretch back some years. However, I ask members to have a degree of wariness when they are thinking about and listening to some of what is said. For example, the request that exemptions should be applied to shops with a floor space of under 280m², which is one of the asks that we have received, would effectively exempt all but 17 per cent of the premises in Scotland. That would create significant issues with accessibility and could affect the potential success of the scheme. The issue is not as straightforward as some members like to imagine, as that suggestion would potentially leave huge geographic areas without a return point. That is the kind of thing that we have to balance and take on board, and we are doing so.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that the issue for small retailers in urban and rural areas is not necessarily about exemptions, which she has touched on, and might be about support for good arrangements, such as those that she and I saw last summer on our visits to Norway? Will that be considered by the new advisory group?
The new advisory group has not yet met formally, but I expect that all that will be part of its consideration. I fully anticipate that all potential solutions to the problems and challenges that introducing a new scheme will bring will be part and parcel of the conversation.
I remind members that we are not out here on our own on this. A huge number of other countries across Europe have deposit return schemes of one kind or another that are actively and successfully working, and we should be able to have exactly the same.