Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
For Scotland to become a net zero society will require long-term and sustainable changes to consumer and producer behaviour. We have engaged with food and drink manufacturers on a number of policy initiatives, most recently our circular economy bill proposals and the deposit return scheme for drinks containers.
We are co-operating with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, along with other nations in the United Kingdom, on a new approach to extended producer responsibility for all packaging. Our aim is to provide stronger incentives to reduce waste and use more sustainable packaging across a wide range of products.
The cabinet secretary might be aware of Tesco’s recent and welcome announcement that it is taking a major step to remove multipack plastic packaging. I would be grateful to hear from the cabinet secretary what discussions could take place with other large retailers and grocery stores on reducing their use of plastic.
I welcome all steps that are being taken by big stores, particularly the giant supermarkets, because they could make a big impact in this area. We are engaging with the grocery supply chain, including retailers, through the UK plastics pact. That is a voluntary commitment, setting ambitious targets for signatories to reduce the amount of plastic packaging that they use and to work to improve their environmental impact. That work is on-going and will continue until we achieve what we want to see.
Although there is widespread support for a DRS, including on these benches, there are still significant concerns about the timescale for its introduction if it is not part of a UK-wide scheme. In 2015, Northern Ireland concluded that, although desirable, it would not be feasible to introduce the scheme on a Northern Ireland-only basis. In 2017, the Welsh Government also concluded that it would be preferable to establish a UK-wide scheme. Given that, why is the cabinet secretary so determined to introduce the scheme on a Scotland-only basis when it will mean additional costs and disruption for business, especially when DEFRA has consulted on a scheme that will cover England, Wales and Northern Ireland that will commence in 2023?
It might have been advisable for Finlay Carson to put the word “allegedly” before the word “commence” because, at the moment, there is no certainty about when that scheme will proceed.
We have devolved responsibility in this area. We can do these things in Scotland. I am therefore surprised that the Conservatives, who are constantly asking us to get on with doing things in the devolved arena, somehow object to that when it happens in practice.