Deposit Return Scheme

– in the Scottish Parliament on 20 April 2023.

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Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

The next item of business is a statement by Lorna Slater on the deposit return scheme. The minister will take questions at the end of her statement, so there should be no interruptions or interventions.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I welcome this opportunity to update Parliament on the deposit return scheme following the First Minister’s statement earlier this week. Scotland’s deposit return scheme is an ambitious and transformational upgrade to Scotland’s recycling infrastructure. It has already seen hundreds of millions of pounds invested across the country and is creating hundreds of new green jobs in the recycling industry, with many more to come. It will reduce litter by one third, increase the recycling rate of single-use drinks containers to 90 per cent and cut CO2 emissions by 4 million tonnes over 25 years.

That is the kind of change that we need to see if we are to remain true to our commitment to tackle the climate emergency and to leverage private investment behind a green and circular economy. However, as the First Minister and I have said this week, we cannot deliver on this ambition without an exclusion from the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020. With just four months to go, the UK Government has not issued that exclusion, which makes a delay to the scheme unavoidable.

We have also heard the concerns expressed by businesses, particularly small businesses, and we want to do more to support them. With that in mind, I will today set out the new timetable for Scotland’s DRS and provide an overview of a new package of measures to simplify the scheme and support businesses to participate, and I will finish with next steps on our engagement with the UK Government.

Significant progress has been made by businesses large and small in preparing for the scheme. Around £300 million of investment has been committed in systems, infrastructure and staff time, with many businesses fully prepared to launch the scheme.

The scheme administrator, Circularity Scotland, has developed the logistical network that will support the operation of the scheme, and ground has been broken on sites across Scotland, including sorting centres in Aberdeen and Motherwell that are creating up to 200 new green jobs. I am very grateful to everyone who has helped to make that happen. However, in recent months progress has stalled. Presiding Officer, the primary cause of that has been the uncertainty created by the continued failure by the United Kingdom Government to issue an IMA exclusion. [



The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Members, I said that there should be no interventions or interruptions. Minister, please continue.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

Together with public briefings against the scheme from the Secretary of State for Scotland, the effect has been corrosive, undermining confidence, stalling progress and halting private investment. Some businesses have said that they will simply not join the scheme because of the UK Government’s position, and there has been extensive feedback from industry that they are not willing to proceed with investments until they have clarity.

This is an ambitious, major infrastructure scheme that affects thousands of businesses and everyone in Scotland. Readiness for August was always going to be challenging, particularly given the difficult conditions that the industry has faced in recent years, but the chilling effect of Westminster’s position has made it impossible. Scotland’s deposit return scheme will now go live on 1 March 2024. This gives the time needed for the UK Government to fulfil its duties, and it gives businesses a full 10 months from now to get ready for launch.

Earlier this week I met with representatives of producers and retailers to outline the new timetable. I acknowledge their constructive response and the suggestions that they have made to ensure that these 10 months are used to full effect, and I look forward to continuing to engage with them to ensure that we make the progress that we need to make. I have also asked partners in the scheme—CSL, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Zero Waste Scotland—to work with my officials and with businesses to deal promptly with any remaining issues, to allow businesses to prepare.

Although Scotland’s DRS is an industry-led scheme, just as similar schemes are across the world, the Scottish Government has consistently worked in partnership with businesses to facilitate progress and ensure that a pragmatic approach is taken to implementing the scheme. That is why we are removing the obligation on the vast majority of online retailers to provide take-back services; it is why, earlier this year, CSL brought forward a £22 million package of support to improve cash flow for producers; and it is why we have listened carefully to the suggestions that small businesses, in particular, have made in recent weeks with a view to developing a package of measures that are fair and pragmatic and that support the overall aims of the scheme.

The key elements of that package are as follows. First, all drinks containers under 100ml will be completely excluded from the scheme. That will benefit businesses in the soft drinks, wine and spirits industries—the latter has raised particular concerns about miniatures—while removing just 0.2 per cent of articles from the scheme.

Secondly, products with low sales volumes will be excluded from the scheme. That change applies to any product that sells fewer than 5,000 items a year. That will apply to all businesses, so a large business that has a niche product line with low sales volume will not need to apply a deposit to that line and a small business that sells a low volume of products will not need to apply a deposit to any of their products. That change will remove only around 0.5 per cent of articles from the scheme but will remove the need for around 44 per cent of businesses to apply a deposit to their products, effectively removing many of the smallest producers from the scheme.

Thirdly, we plan to exempt all hospitality premises that sell the large majority of their drinks products for consumption on the premises from acting as a return point. Regulations already exempt premises that exclusively sell drinks on site, such as restaurants, pubs and nightclubs. However, many hospitality businesses also sell a small proportion of drinks to take away. Where that is the case, we agree that they need not operate as a return point, given that they will already be operating a closed-loop system for drinks on sale. We will engage with hospitality businesses on the proportion of sales to which that will apply, in order to ensure a balance between support for businesses and accessibility for customers.

In addition, in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland, we have simplified the online process for retailers to apply for an exemption from operating a return point, following feedback from businesses that have used the online application system.

I am aware of the concern that some businesses have around the size and complexity of the producer agreement with Circularity Scotland. To help with that, I have asked Circularity Scotland to develop a short-form producer agreement, which will help to reduce the burden on those businesses.

Throughout the process of developing the DRS, we have worked closely with officials in the UK Government. However, the UK Government has still to issue an internal market act exclusion, even though we first raised the need for one in 2021. We have followed the agreed process and have provided all the material that has been asked of us. I had expected to finally get a decision at the most recent meeting of the interministerial group, on Monday of this week. However, no decision was forthcoming and ministers were unable to provide a timeframe for one. [



Let me be clear: Scotland’s DRS is within the devolved competence—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Excuse me, minister. Could you resume your seat for a second?

I said at the outset that there should be no interventions or interruptions while the minister is speaking. There will be opportunities to ask questions after the minister has concluded her statement.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

Let me be clear: Scotland’s DRS is within the devolved competence of the Scottish Government and Parliament. It is not for Westminster to undermine our democracy in the way that it is doing. Following my statement, we will write to the UK Government to inform it of the new timetable and support package and to request—once again—an urgent decision to allow the scheme to proceed as I have outlined.

I am confident that that will happen, because there is no reasonable justification for our request being refused. It is the right outcome for businesses, for Scotland and for the UK, which will benefit from our scheme leading the way. We remain committed to continuing to share lessons with the UK Government.

Alongside our work to obtain an IMA exclusion, we are working with the UK Government on issues related to trading standards, which are important for producers and retailers. Businesses need answers on those issues in short order. Again, I ask the UK Government to work with us, businesses and regulators to resolve those critical issues in a timely manner.

I and this Government are committed to Scotland’s deposit return scheme. That commitment is unwavering, because I believe in climate action. I believe in investing in green infrastructure and in creating the green jobs of the future, so I call on members across the chamber who share those values to put an end to their increasingly desperate attempts to undermine Scotland’s deposit return scheme.

Right now, it looks as though colleagues in the Labour and Tory parties have given up on recycling, on tackling the litter crisis, on the climate emergency and even on the authority of this Parliament to make decisions in devolved areas. That is what this comes down to. Scotland’s Parliament legislated to make deposit return happen and I, as a minister of the Scottish Government, am delivering on that democratic mandate—[


.]—but a Tory Westminster Government that Scotland did not vote for appears to be using the post-Brexit powers that it gave itself to stop this vital scheme in its tracks.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Minister, I am sorry to interrupt again, but please resume your seat.

This is the third and last time that I will say this. The minister is making a statement. As is the common practice when ministers make statements, there are to be no interventions or interruptions.

Minister, please conclude.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

Thank you, Presiding Officer.

Labour and the Tories might have given up on devolution, but we have not. I and this Scottish Government will work tirelessly to deliver on our mandate and to protect this Parliament’s right to work for the people of Scotland.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

The minister will now take questions on the issues raised in her statement. I intend to allow around 20 minutes for questions, after which we will move on to the next item of business. I ask those members who wish to ask a question to press their request-to-speak button now.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

I thank the minister for advance sight of the statement. The only parties in the chamber that have given up on recycling are the Scottish National Party and its partners in the Greens, having not met the 2013 household recycling target that the Scottish Government set.

Today’s statement confirms the SNP-Green approach: constitutional grievance first and business second. The Scottish Government had been sitting on the scheme since 2009, before it finally got round to introducing regulations and setting a launch date of April 2021. Then we had a delay, then another delay and then, this week, with the minister having lost control of the scheme, the First Minister had to step in and announce yet another delay.

The minister will not be happy with that, having said that

“no one with any credibility” would delay the scheme again and that it would be a

“kick in the teeth” to industry.

The minister has made such an almighty mess of the scheme that she has now had to effectively rewrite it. Today’s changes should have been made months ago. Businesses cannot have confidence in a scheme that sees continual delays and massive changes at the last minute.

Let us be clear: this is not an industry-led scheme. The Scottish waste sector has been excluded, small businesses have been excluded from membership of the scheme administrator and, in any case, Donald McCalman of Circularity Scotland said today:

“We’re not running the scheme. I think that’s an important misconception to address.”

Can the minister provide a helpful answer? I am not interested in pre-scripted flimflam telling me information that I already know. Will registered producers be held liable for advanced months payments during this delay, yes or no?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I am sorry: due to the noise around me, I could not hear the question. Will the member repeat the last bit?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Before Mr Golden stands up to ask his question again, that question would have been heard if members on the front bench and in the other parts of the chamber that I am looking at directly had not heckled him while he was asking his question. That is perhaps a salutary lesson for everyone today: members must let the person who has the floor be the speaker at that particular time.

I call Douglas Lumsden. No, I call Maurice Golden. Even I am getting confused.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

I am much younger than Douglas Lumsden.

My question was, will registered producers be held liable for advanced months payments during this delay, yes or no?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

The member asks an interesting question about the agreement between producers and Circularity Scotland, which is a contract that they have signed. The member may be reassured to hear that only the very largest producers are liable for costs under that contract.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I thank the minister for advance notice of her statement, although I am deeply disappointed by its tone and content. I put on record that the First Minister’s response yesterday to my letter was merely a political attack, which the minister is, unfortunately, repeating today.

Businesses, the hospitality sector and recycling companies are stressed and have been highlighting their concerns for months. Being told by the minister, for the past few months, to go to a website has not cut it, especially when the information that they sought was not even there. Now that we have this inevitable delay, we need a grown-up approach from both the UK and Scottish Governments to ensure that we get a scheme that will not disadvantage Scottish businesses and consumers.

We at Scottish Labour are absolutely clear in our support for the principle of a DRS scheme. Such schemes have been successful in other countries and in the debate later today we will highlight our commitment to stronger action on the climate emergency. But, even now, there is no admission in the statement that the scheme has been wrongly designed. That is why we have been asking questions for months.

I want a response from the minister on the key issue of the implementation of the scheme. She has again said that responsibility for that has been given to the private company Circularity Scotland, which does not represent small businesses and has no accountability or parliamentary oversight. Circularity Scotland has already given the contract to Biffa, a company now owned by a US hedge fund, which will put jobs in local recycling companies at risk and will give Biffa a monopoly over the prices to be charged in future.

Will the minister now roll back on that? What remains a concern to businesses is the exact detail of how the scheme is to be implemented. Will the minister now commit to meeting those producers, members of the hospitality sector and recycling companies, who will still face major challenges even with the changes that she has announced today?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I continue to meet producers and members of the retail and hospitality sectors, and I am happy to meet recyclers as well. Engagement with industry and business has been a core part of how we have been delivering this. Indeed, after the First Minister’s statement on Tuesday, I held rapid meetings with producers, retailers and the non-governmental organisations in the sector that very afternoon. That is just a continuing example of the kind of engagement that we have had all along.

I will go through some of the timeline, because I think that it might be useful for the member to understand that. Since last year, we have developed considerable momentum towards what was intended to be the launch in August this year. That has included working with industry on its concerns with regard to the scheme.

The regulations that this Parliament passed were deliberately broad to allow industry to make those adjustments and decisions that were right for industry. The scheme is paid for by industry and delivered by industry. I suppose that this Parliament could have passed a scheme that would have been paid for by the taxpayer and controlled by Government, but that is not what it passed. However, within the scope of delivering the scheme, there are some key partners, which include the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament. We passed the regulations, SEPA enforces them, and industry’s job is to adhere to them. Circularity Scotland is a private not-for-profit business that has been created by industry to enable it to comply with the regulations as passed by this Parliament.

Throughout the process of delivering this project, industry has come back to me, as a representative of the Scottish Government, and said that it would like us to clarify, provide detail on and improve certain elements of the scheme, so we have done that. We clarified the process for streamlining exclusions. We got rid of online take-back for most people who would have been responsible—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Members, please show some courtesy.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

We worked with

Circularity Scotland, which, in March, delivered £22 million-worth of cash-flow support. Today, I have announced significant adjustments to the delivery of the scheme that have been asked for by industry. Industry asked us to exclude miniatures. We have done so. Industry asked us to look at what could be done for small producers, and 44 per cent of them will now not be required to apply a deposit.

The member should be clear that I have systematically worked through and delivered on what industry has asked for. We now have 10 months before the new launch date, and I am looking forward to working with industry to get to that successfully. The businesses that I engaged with on Tuesday had some very constructive suggestions—I thank them for that—as to how we might work together to do that, and I will continue to do that work.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I point out that we need succinct questions and indeed answers, minister, in order to allow me to call as many members as possible in the time that we have available.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Presiding Officer, I am having difficulty hearing the minister. I think that time would be best spent on questions and answers. It has been taken up by a lot of noise from the Conservatives. [


.] It takes up time.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Everything takes up time, Ms Hyslop. I will try to deal with that as best I can. Please continue.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Thank you, Presiding Officer.

Can the minister now suggest that SEPA and Circularity Scotland provide clarity on the scheme for small hospitality businesses—such as DreadnoughtRock in Bathgate, which I visited recently—that already recycle 100 per cent of their glass bottles, cans and other waste and use existing SEPA systems of recording such recycling? What consideration has been given to closed-loop hospitality venues that have difficulty in securely storing waste that is destined for recycling? The same company may be designated by Circularity Scotland to collect in the future, but currently it will do so only from the public main street, which will bring serious security issues in relation to what will be a valuable commodity.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

All scheme articles will bear a deposit, which hospitality businesses will have paid when they purchased the materials. Hospitality businesses can only redeem that deposit by ensuring that scheme articles are returned, so removing them from the scheme is not possible. The scheme will allow closed-loop hospitality businesses to have their material collected for free, saving them money while keeping up the high levels of recycling. I am aware that CSL continues to work with the hospitality industry to ensure smooth working of the scheme.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

The minister was asked whether there might be liabilities arising and she confirmed that there will be. Can she, therefore, tell me what is the total liability, expressed as a figure, for registered producers and retailer contractual commitments for reverse vending machines resulting from this delay?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

That is a matter relating to the contractual agreement between Circularity Scotland and the producers. The member can be assured that only the very largest producers—those making more than 10 million units a year—are required to underwrite the cost. It is an agreement between a private company and their customers; it is not a matter for the Scottish Government.

Photo of Clare Adamson Clare Adamson Scottish National Party

Prior to Brexit, which, of course, Scotland did not want, we had regulatory divergence, and this Parliament could be secure in legislating in devolved areas. The Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee has consistently raised concerns about the lack of transparency about the frameworks and the nature of the relationships between the Governments and how those are developing. The UK Government’s two-year delay with regard to its decision about exclusions to the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 under the common frameworks can only leave us with the impression that it is trampling over the devolution settlement. Does the minister agree?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I share the member’s deep frustration. Let me be clear: this should not be how devolution works. I am deeply concerned about the broader implications of the UK Government using its powers under the 2020 act in that way to undermine the common frameworks and the devolved decisions that are taken by this Parliament, and I know that the Welsh Government is also concerned about that.

The common frameworks were meant to provide a means of resolving issues such as these, and my ask of the UK Government is clear. We need to follow the agreed, published process, engage constructively and agree an exclusion quickly. That is the best outcome not only for Scotland and Scottish businesses but for the UK as a whole.

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

In February this year, the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity claimed that there were 500 new jobs out for recruitment as part of the deposit return scheme, including 60 in Aberdeen, all of which would contribute to our just transition; and, in March, the minister announced that 664 businesses had registered with the scheme ahead of the August launch. Can the minister share what assessments the Scottish Government has made of the impact of the significant delay on those new jobs, and of the implications of the cost to those businesses and organisations that have already invested in changes to their operations as part of the scheme?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

The member is right to say that many businesses in Scotland have invested heavily towards the August launch date. That investment includes recruiting people, setting up information technology systems and getting ready to install reverse vending machines. The delay, which has been caused by the prevarication of the UK Government in relation to issuing an exemption from the 2020 act, which we asked for two years ago—I stress that we are weeks away from the when the scheme was meant to be launched—has been frustrating for me and for those businesses that have made that substantial investment.

Maurice Golden quoted me accurately earlier: I think that the delay on the part of the UK Government is a kick in the teeth for the businesses that have worked hard towards the launch of the scheme. However, the businesses can be assured that that investment is not lost. It will be valuable as we work towards our 1 March launch, because the Government is committed to the deposit return scheme and we will be working towards a successful launch in March next year.

Photo of John Mason John Mason Scottish National Party

The minister mentioned trading standards. Could she expand on exactly what agreement she needs from trading standards? Does that include the question of how deposits will be displayed in the price, and is the UK Government being constructive in that regard?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

That is an important question that affects Scottish businesses and businesses across the UK as they implement their deposit return schemes.

Trading standards officers have indicated that their interpretation of the price marking legislation is that the deposit must be included in the price displayed for a product. We believe that that approach risks confusion for customers. We believe that it is important that it is clear that the deposit on products is refundable and, therefore, we believe that it should not be included in the price that is displayed but instead should be highlighted separately, as the deposit return regulations require. That is the approach of deposit return schemes in other countries.

Trading standards is a resolved policy area, so we cannot adjust the regulations ourselves. However, we have called on the UK Government to amend the relevant legislation, which does not explicitly cover deposit return schemes, to make it clear that the deposit price can be displayed separately. Scottish Government officials are working closely with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Welsh Government and the Department for Business and Trade to seek a consistent approach to deposit pricing across the UK, particularly as we believe that Westminster will want a similar approach to the one that we are proposing when it launches its own scheme.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

Circularity Scotland’s role is to deliver the scheme as per Government instruction. SEPA is the regulator of the scheme. However, despite the hundreds of questions that have been asked of the minister, we are still unclear as to her role. Will she take this opportunity to tell us what her responsibilities are, and will she finally commit to working with MSPs of all parties—who, incidentally, are supportive of a workable DRS scheme—ditch the positive squirming, and listen to affected industries when they raise legitimate concerns?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

As I went through in detail when Mercedes Villalba asked a question, I have engaged effectively with businesses—producers and retailers—and I have spoken with MSPs in the chamber. I have done extensive engagement. That is how we have made changes to the operation of the DRS, which we have done specifically to address what industry has asked for. I have given extensive detail—I am sure that the Presiding Officer does not want me to go through it again—of exactly all the ways in which we have listened to businesses to get ready for the launch.

Ten months are ahead of us before our launch date of 1 March. On Tuesday, I again had constructive engagement with retailers and producers as to how we are going to work together to become a really effective delivery body in order to launch the scheme successfully on 1 March—and I look forward to doing just that.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I note that the minister has recently met representatives of producers and retailers, which is good, but has she met the Resource Management Association Scotland, as I have? It represents 400 companies—small and medium-sized enterprises—that operate in waste management, with 6,690 employees. It has concerns, given that Biffa has a monopoly, that those businesses will be put out of work and that those jobs are at risk.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I met the RMAS some time ago, albeit not specifically on this matter. I share the member’s concern about the impact on existing recyclers and waste companies. My officials have been in discussion with CSL about that, and we are clear that we must harness the opportunities for existing recyclers within the DRS.

CSL has indicated that, as part of Biffa’s responsibility for building and operating an efficient and effective collections network, it is in active discussions with several existing waste collection companies to explore how those organisations can work with Biffa on the DRS. It remains keen to engage with other such companies and has a dedicated form on its website to allow firms to make contact and open discussions. I urge recycling and waste companies to do just that: to get in contact with Biffa.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

The minister’s statement was a remarkable exercise in blame shifting that was both ill advised and lacking in self-awareness. Over the past two years, I have spoken to many businesses, not one of which has mentioned the UK Government but all of which have criticised the Scottish Government’s approach.

The minister said that she has set out further changes today. She has insisted that the scheme is genuinely led by industry. Will she therefore confirm that she will be open to considering any other changes that small businesses in particular believe are still required?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I have engaged with businesses large and small and with trade associations, and the number 1 concern that businesses have raised with me is the uncertainty around the scheme—in particular, the uncertainty that has been created by the UK Government not issuing an internal market act exclusion. [



Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

Specifically, businesses are asking why they should invest in a scheme that Alister Jack of the UK Government says he might veto—why should they put millions of pounds of their money on the line when the UK Government is creating such uncertainty? The businesses that I have spoken to have either paused their investment or told me that they are not willing to participate in the scheme until the UK Government gives them that clarity. We need that clarity first.

However, as I have outlined today, I have listened clearly to businesses at all stages. The simplification measures that I have announced are significant, particularly for small producers. That limit of 5,000 units applies to producers of all sizes but is of particular benefit for small producers that do not wish to have a deposit on their items. They could have a deposit on the items if they wanted to—they can still opt in—but the change means that 44 per cent of those smallest producers will not have a deposit on their articles. That is a significant support and exactly the kind of measure that small businesses have been asking for.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

Across the country, I can see DRS facilities appearing in supermarkets, sorting centres being built and hundreds of jobs being created. With over 95 per cent of the market for cans and bottles already signed up, businesses and the minister should be congratulated on getting the UK’s first deposit return scheme so close to being launched. Given the huge private sector investment that has already been delivered in our communities, what has the reaction from those businesses been to the continued failure of the UK Government to grant an exemption from the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020? [



Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

Despite all the moaning and groaning and theatrics to my left, it is a fact that we need an exclusion from the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 issued for the scheme to be launched. That is an absolute fact.

I absolutely share Mark Ruskell’s deep frustration. Let me be clear: this should not be how devolution works. Businesses work best when they have certainty. That is what they have asked us and the UK Government for. The continuing uncertainty on the UK Government’s position is undermining progress. We are hearing that businesses are pausing their preparation and investment until a UK Government decision is agreed. I continue to urge the UK Government to agree the exclusion as soon as possible to provide certainty for businesses.

On a happier note, I, too, am excited at starting to see reverse vending machines in shops and what is actually happening. People tweet when they see those in shops, and it is exciting to see that starting to happen.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

The minister mentioned devolution. Surely the aim of devolution is to do things better, not just to do things differently for the sake of it. Does she agree that the main two outstanding business asks are that glass should be removed from scope, as is the case in the UK, and that, given the further delay—which I predict will be extended—there should alignment with the UK, thereby removing double costing, double labelling, 700 lost jobs that will happen in the waste management sector and all the detritus of the dire complexity of a broken and defective scheme? [



Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I often forget that Fergus Ewing is not a member of the Conservative Party, given the support that he is getting from it. That was quite an impressive round of applause for him.

Greenpeace has said:

“In what kind of world is collecting glass drinks containers not an essential part of a system designed to collect drinks containers?”

Honestly. Of the 44 schemes around the world that already exist, 40 of them collect glass. It is normal for glass to be part of the scheme. Indeed, Maurice Golden wrote an extensive blog post about that, which he has since deleted. However, I can quote from it, if anyone is interested in hearing what Maurice Golden used to say about the benefits of including glass before he rethought his position:

“I am of course very disappointed that the UK Government has chosen to exclude glass from the scheme”—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Please resume your seat for a second, minister. Maurice Golden has a point of order.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

I have not deleted any article ever, and it is outrageous to be accused of that by a minister in the Parliament. I have not changed my position on DRS, and there is no way that I should be slandered in the Parliament by a minister of the Scottish Government.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I thank Maurice Golden for his contribution. That was not a point of order, of course. It does not engage me as the Presiding Officer in the chair. However, the member has made his point, and it is on the record.

Please resume, minister.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I presume that anybody can therefore go on to the web and find that quote from

Maurice Golden’s blog post. He said:

“This is an opportunity to create an ambitious and inclusive UK wide ... scheme, including glass, which will tackle litter and improve recycling rates.”

Obviously, I am disappointed that the UK has not chosen to go with the global norm of including glass in the scheme. That will reduce the environmental effectiveness of the scheme. Glass is among the most common items to pollute our beaches and public spaces. It is also among the litter items that cause most concern, particularly among parents and pet owners, because of its potential to cause injury. In Scotland, we will continue to include glass in our scheme, because that is the right thing to do.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

As the gap between any Scottish scheme and one in the rest of the UK continues to narrow, will the minister use the next 10 months to seek to ensure that any Scottish scheme aligns as closely as possible with other schemes in the UK in areas such as labelling and product size exemptions, because my South Scotland constituents on the border who routinely purchase products on either side of the border in their daily lives should be able to return those products to either side of the border wherever they purchase them?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

Absolutely—I can reassure the member that we are committed to the interoperability of the scheme and today’s announcement on 100ml containers is part of that alignment. Of course, I am very much hoping that the UK will align with us and include glass in its scheme.

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

The minister’s statement will be welcomed by smaller producers such as Williams Brothers Brewing Company, based in my constituency, which I met earlier this week—particularly if the extended consultation works closely with SMEs.

Although I agree with and endorse what the minister has said about the fact that the Tory party does not know whether it wants to support the scheme, oppose it or just play constitutional politics in order to obstruct the process, can the minister also give reassurances that discussions will take place with supermarkets and other retailers to ensure that smaller producers, which are excluded from the scheme, are not adversely impacted by retailers only stocking registered scheme articles?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

It is important to note that even the small producers whose items are excluded from the scheme need to register with SEPA and give it information on their quantities so that they can be properly excluded in accordance with the rules.

It is a commercial decision for individual businesses whether they wish to participate in this important environmental scheme by selling products on the Scottish market, but we would encourage any business to contact Circularity Scotland in the first instance for support and to discuss any concerns that they have about participating in the scheme.

Photo of Craig Hoy Craig Hoy Conservative

I apologise for arriving slightly late for the statement.

Despite some concessions today, Lorna Slater is still just kicking the can down the road. Can she explain what compensation she is considering for small hospitality operators who may have already incurred considerable costs and, while climb-downs are the order of the day, will she now do the right thing and exclude small pubs and restaurants altogether?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

As I have already outlined in relation to the exclusions for hospitality businesses, small pubs and nightclubs and so on that only operate as a closed loop were already excluded from acting as return points. They have to be part of the scheme as a closed loop, because when they buy those items, they will make a deposit, and by participating as a closed loop, they get that money back. However, w e are exempting them from acting as a return point and today’s announcement means that further hospitality businesses where most of their products are consumed in-house will not be obliged to act as return points. That simplifies things a great deal for hospitality businesses.

Those closed-loop hospitality businesses will have those materials collected for free, which is a substantial cost saving to those businesses. That is how we are supporting the hospitality industry.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Thank you, minister. That concludes the statement, which I allowed to run on for a bit longer because there was such interest from members across the chamber wishing to ask questions. I apologise to the few members I was not able to fit in. We allowed the statement to run on quite considerably to accommodate as many members as possible.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. The minister referred to a blog post that I had written. I have never written a blog and therefore I could not have published a blog and then subsequently deleted it. I would appreciate it if the minister would correct the official record and apologise, because it is outrageous to suggest that I have done something that I have not done and it might be considered an abuse of ministerial privilege to do so.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I thank Maurice Golden for that contribution. A correction of the

Official Report is a matter for the member concerned. That is all that I can say as the Presiding Officer.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

On a further point of order, Presiding Officer, I think that it is important that members provide accurate information on the record. I have just been sat here at my desk reading the said blog from Maurice Golden, from 2019, which I believe is in an archive. It makes for very interesting reading. It is important that all members are accurate and truthful about their previous positions on matters of policy as well as their current positions.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I would advise Mr Ruskell that that is not a point of order either. Thank you.

I believe that it is time to move on to the next item of business. [


.] Quiet, please, Mr Kerr.

There will be a short pause to allow front-bench teams to change positions should they so wish. Thank you.