The Scottish Government has met representatives of small brewers to discuss deposit return on two occasions, and that engagement is on-going, with a further meeting scheduled to take place on Friday this week. I also plan to meet representatives of the sector in the near future.
A number of retail and brewing trade bodies also participate in the various working groups that have been formed to progress our plans for the DRS. I look forward to laying the final regulations to establish the scheme shortly.
Scotland has a fantastic range of small independent brewers across the country, as well as retailers that specialise in their products rather than in volume sales of mass-manufactured products. Those businesses want the DRS to work, but does the cabinet secretary recognise that it needs to work in a way that reflects the specific circumstances of small independent producers and retailers, and that, so far, big business has had a louder voice on the advisory board than small businesses?
I absolutely agree. We are keen to ensure that the scheme works well for small and specialist producers as well as for retailers. That is very important. Proposals that we are considering very carefully have been made by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee. We are committed to working with industry, including small businesses, on implementation of the DRS.
We are looking very closely at things that might assist small businesses or reassure them that their concerns are being taken care of. I hope that people will see that very soon, when the final regulations are laid.
The deposit return scheme will have a unique impact on businesses that are close to the English border—in particular, small businesses that make home deliveries to premises that are very close to each other, but are on either side of the border.
What action is being taken to mitigate the challenges that such businesses will face?
That issue has been discussed. I make it clear to members that the scheme administrator, when it is up and running, will consider the potential for what we might call fraud in such instances. The issue is on the radar: we understand that there are difficulties in some respects.
A variety of schemes that are in operation across Europe work on both sides of a border. The problems are not insurmountable, and I do not for a single minute suppose that we will be unable to find solutions for Scotland.