Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 20 March 2024.

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Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

The next item of business is a debate on motion S6M-12552, in the name of Lorna Slater, on the Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill at stage 1. I invite members who wish to speak in the debate to press their request-to-speak button.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I am delighted to open the debate on the bill. I thank the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee for its stage 1 report, and the Finance and Public Administration Committee and the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee for their consideration of the bill.

I was encouraged to hear so many stakeholders speak to the benefits of a circular economy when they gave evidence. Some rightly pointed out the challenges and areas in which more can still be done. The bill, together with the range of other activity that is under way, will give us the tools that we need to do just that.

I am grateful to the NZET Committee for its support for the general principles of the bill. It made a number of detailed recommendations, to which I have responded at length. I will touch on some of those, along with the bill’s principles and the positive changes that will be brought if the Parliament passes the legislation.

How we view and treat our resources in Scotland is fundamental to tackling climate change and biodiversity loss. We must deliver a fundamental shift across society to reduce the demand for raw materials; to encourage reuse, repairs and recycling; and to maximise the value of any unavoidable waste that is generated. Achieving that will require action here and throughout the United Kingdom. The bill will help that to happen in Scotland.

The new powers in the bill will give ministers and local authorities the tools that they need to help drive the transition. That will be underpinned by support and investment, such as the £70 million recycling improvement fund, which builds on more than £1 billion of funding that was provided through the former strategic waste fund between 2008 and 2022.

At the heart of the bill is the recognition that co-design, based on the principles of the Verity house agreement and the new deal for business, will be central in delivering the transformation. Regulations that are made under the enabling powers in the bill will be subject to further consultation, parliamentary scrutiny and impact assessments.

I note that the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee reported that it is content with the powers and the proposed procedures. I am happy to accept its recommendation about consultation on local authority guidance.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

As a result of the measures, when will the 2013 household waste recycling target be met?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

The member rightly brings attention to some of the challenges that we face with meeting historical targets in this area. That is exactly why the bill needs to be brought forward—so that we can set a new course. That means setting targets, as we will be empowered to do by the bill, as well as taking the constructive actions that we need to take to meet those targets.

Legislation is, of course, only part of the solution, and a wide range of other measures is in train. Alongside the bill, we have published our draft circular economy and waste route map, which will provide strategic direction to deliver our system-wide vision for Scotland’s circular economy to 2030. The consultation on that recently closed, and the final route map will be published later this year.

We are also introducing extended producer responsibility for packaging, alongside other Governments in the United Kingdom. That will require producers to pay local authorities the full net cost of operating an efficient and effective household packaging-collection service. It will provide substantial funding of an estimated £1.2 billion per annum to local authorities across the UK.

The main provisions of the bill cover publishing a circular economy strategy, developing circular economy targets, establishing measures to tackle fly-tipping and littering, ensuring that individual householders and businesses get rid of waste in the right way, improving the consistency of household recycling and improving waste monitoring.

We must make a circular option the easy option for households, businesses and the public sector, so that everyone in the country experiences a modern, easy-to-use waste service that helps people do the right thing for the planet. Measures in the bill will support the design and delivery of more consistent local services that maximise recycling performance, thereby supporting and incentivising positive behaviours.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

Does the minister accept the Finance and Public Administration Committee’s concerns about where the funding will come from? Does she accept that local authorities are already under immense financial pressure and that, if the bill adds to those pressures without providing funding, we will not go far?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I am grateful to the member for raising that very good point. I have committed to co-design with local authorities of how we move forward with implementing a more standardised service. That will require some investment funding. Funding will also come from extended producer responsibility for packaging, which I just mentioned, through which local authorities will be funded to deliver and operate effective and efficient recycling of packaging. Of course, some capital funding will be required as well, which will follow on from the strategic waste fund and the recycling improvement fund that we already have.

One element of the co-design that I have committed to with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities is looking at other revenue-raising opportunities, such as help for local authorities to collect better-quality recyclate, which they can use to generate increased revenue.

Turning to issues that were raised in the stage 1 report, I am pleased that the NZET Committee supported a broad range of provisions in the bill, and I note its concerns about the bill’s framework nature. However, I hope that the committee accepts the need to react quickly to emerging issues. Using delegated powers to make regulations allows us to do that, as we are seeing currently in the case of single-use vapes. We will publish the consultation on charging for single-use disposable cups in the coming weeks, which I hope will assure the Parliament of the approach that we will take when using the powers in the bill.

I also acknowledge the Finance and Public Administration Committee’s concerns in relation to the financial memorandum, and I recognise its need to scrutinise the bill’s costs and benefits. I am committed to updating both committees as we work with stakeholders to design the detail of the secondary legislation.

That process is already under way. Since the bill was launched, I have met COSLA’s spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor, on several occasions. I am pleased with that strong collaboration and with COSLA’s support for the bill’s aims. In Councillor Macgregor’s most recent letter, she stated that she is

“delighted that we are finding such a constructive way of addressing our prime concerns” and that she sees this as

“an excellent and leading example of working in the spirit of and implementing the Verity House Agreement”.

Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

Has COSLA raised concerns about the funding that councils will require to implement some elements of the bill?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

It has indeed. As I just said in response to Alex Rowley, I am absolutely aware that investment will be needed in order to do that. We are looking at other sources of funding to support local authorities to get the best profit from their recyclate, as well as using the extended producer responsibility funding to implement efficient and effective services.

I am listening to COSLA’s concerns. The specific concern that I was about to refer to before that intervention was about the proposal, which is based on the Welsh approach, to have financial penalties for missing recycling targets. We have explored whether the bill’s aims would be better achieved through a collaborative programme of work with local government to develop plans to meet targets, establish funding requirements and share evidence and best practice.

If we can continue to jointly progress development and agree a robust and effective collaborative programme, that will have the potential to deliver the bill’s aims to improve recycling and assure accountability, and I would be willing to amend the bill at stage 2 to remove the provisions relating to financial penalties. I am grateful for the constructive engagement that COSLA demonstrated throughout those discussions. I see that as a positive example of the Verity house agreement partnership in action.

I have also had constructive discussions with businesses about how we progress measures in ways that build on existing mechanisms, to ensure that implementation is simple and effective. In a similar vein, I have had useful discussions with many colleagues from across the chamber. I welcome the consensus that developing a circular economy is vital, and I look forward to further positive engagement as we move through the bill process.

Those discussions have included several discussions about fly-tipping. I can confirm that, before stage 2, we will publish the review of litter and fly-tipping enforcement, which will help with our consideration of whether to lodge amendments to further address the challenges in dealing with fly-tipping.

I finish by underlining the fact that building a more circular economy is an environmental imperative, but it is also an economic opportunity for Scotland. It will open up new markets, improve productivity, increase self-sufficiency and provide local employment. I am confident that the bill is a major step towards achieving that. I look forward to the rest of the debate and to hearing the views of members from across the chamber.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill.

Photo of Edward Mountain Edward Mountain Conservative

I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee. I thank two groups of people. First, I thank my committee colleagues for all their diligent work in considering the bill, and I am sure that they would want me to extend our thanks to the clerking team for drawing together what I believe is a comprehensive report. I also acknowledge the careful and considered reports on the bill from the Finance and Public Administration Committee and the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee.

The committee began our work on the bill back in June, when we issued a call for evidence and hosted an online discussion on the bill. We took oral evidence in the autumn, holding 10 evidence sessions in nearly as many weeks. Among all that, we squeezed in three visits and an online engagement event with small and medium-sized enterprises that aim to run their businesses in line with the circular economy principles.

I thank everyone who contributed to our work on the bill, which has been invaluable in informing the stage 1 report. We consistently heard about the need to make progress towards a more circular economy in Scotland, in order to tackle the climate and nature emergencies at home and abroad. At the moment, Scotland is estimated to be only 1.3 per cent circular, and a Zero Waste Scotland report suggested that Scotland’s per capita material footprint is nearly double the global average, which is simply unsustainable.

Those statistics show why the Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill is needed. However, the committee is unconvinced that a bill on its own will create the system-wide changes that we need, and we believe that the Scottish Government must look at additional opportunities to act.

The fact that the bill is a framework bill presented us with some challenges. It was difficult for us to express an informed view on the bill’s interplay with the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020. Committee members have a range of views on the use of framework legislation, but we are all agreed that the Scottish Parliament must have adequate opportunity to scrutinise future regulations that the Scottish Government introduces through the bill. I welcome the fact that the minister agreed with that point in her response to the stage 1 report.

The Finance and Public Administration Committee has taken the view that the financial memorandum for the bill is not adequate in providing the best estimates of the financial costs. We think that that could be mitigated by the Scottish Government committing to provide the Parliament with robust costings when regulations are made under key order-making powers and by ensuring that the Parliament has enough time to consider and take evidence on the regulations.

Let me turn to some of the committee’s recommendations on specific provisions in the bill. First, we support the provisions to create a circular economy strategy, and we support the setting of legally binding targets to drive the transformative changes that we need in society, but the bill must set out how the strategy and targets will interact. We also want to ensure that the Scottish Parliament has a greater role in scrutinising proposed targets, given their national significance to the Scottish economy and our response to the climate emergency. We think that the setting of targets should be a Scottish Government obligation, not an option.

We believe that the circular economy strategy must include more support for charities and social enterprises that promote reuse and repair, because they do a huge amount to foster a sharing economy.

Regulation-making powers to restrict the disposal of unsold goods should be developed in consultation with those who will be affected. We will not have a more circular economy unless the Scottish Government takes businesses on that journey with it. In her response to our report, the minister said that restrictions would apply only to durable goods, not to food waste. I would welcome clarification from the minister of why that distinction is not mentioned in the bill.

We agree with the principle of cutting down on single-use items where possible. We think that additional charging could help, but care is needed to ensure that well-meaning actions do not impact disproportionately on consumers and, in particular, on vulnerable groups.

The bill creates new enforcement powers relating to household waste. We recognise that the measures might help to prevent recycled goods from being contaminated and help local authorities to tackle fly-tipping, but local authorities must use the powers carefully and only after careful engagement with householders.

On the code of practice and local recycling targets, we welcome the proposals to create a more consistent, high-performing recycling system across Scotland, but the Scottish Government must ensure that local authorities have sufficient resources to make the necessary improvements to their services in order to achieve the new standards. The committee was convinced—I particularly agree with this—by the arguments for a standardised approach to bin collections across Scotland’s local authorities, and we call on the Scottish Government to explore that in detail with COSLA. It should not be too much to ask to have the same system of coloured bins across Scotland. That could certainly help to reduce confusion and increase compliance.

We welcome the strengthening of enforcement powers to tackle littering and more serious forms of waste crime, but the Scottish Government must ensure that the powers are fully funded, otherwise they will fall short of expectations.

I know that time is short, so I will conclude. The committee supports the general principles of the bill. We give the bill a qualified welcome. However, we want the Scottish Government to engage constructively with our recommendations on how the bill can be improved. The minister has indicated that she is still considering a number of the committee’s suggestions, so I remain hopeful that improvements will be made as the bill progresses.

Photo of John Mason John Mason Scottish National Party

I am pleased to make a short contribution to the debate on behalf of the Finance and Public Administration Committee.

As members might know, my committee colleagues are in London for a meeting of the interparliamentary finance committee forum, so you are stuck with me—I think that I am also the oldest member of the committee.

The committee has scrutinised the bill’s financial memorandum, and I would like to highlight some of the key issues that we identified in our report, which was published on 30 November last year. Our report raised concerns about the lack of certainty and potential underestimates in the FM. We noted that a number of the bill’s provisions remain subject to co-design and, therefore, do not have clear associated costs at this stage. Even so, the evidence that the committee received suggested that the FM underestimates costs in relation to enforcement, education and communication campaigns and the infrastructure required to ensure that local authorities are able to adhere to the mandatory code of practice.

A 100 per cent payment rate for fixed penalty notices, which is assumed in the financial memorandum, is incredibly unlikely. Our report raised further concerns regarding the interaction of the bill with related schemes, including the deposit return scheme and the United Kingdom-wide extended producer responsibility scheme. We received evidence that those have created an uncertain environment, which has led to local authorities entering into short-term contracts that can provide little value for money. In relation to local councils, there is also the issue of their coming into alignment with the existing code of practice, which Zero Waste Scotland estimates is costing about £88 million.

The Scottish Government’s response to the report, which was received last week, provides some additional clarity on areas such as enforcement costs and the publication of a national litter and fly-tipping strategy year 1 action plan in May 2024. We also note the minister’s commitment to provide regular updates on costings as regulations are developed.

However, as has been the case with other bills recently, the finance committee remains concerned about the Scottish Government’s approach of introducing a framework bill and using co-design to develop the detail of the policy as the bill progresses through Parliament. Although we do not disagree with the principles of co-design and engaging with stakeholders on policy proposals, both of which support better outcomes and improve decision making, we are unconvinced by the argument that co-design and engagement must follow the legislative process instead of being used to inform and refine policy proposals in advance of legislation being introduced.

The increasing use of framework bills that seek to provide future Governments with enabling powers and that do not, as a result, enable the best estimates of all the costs, savings and changes in revenue to be identified risks the Parliament passing legislation that might, once outcomes are fully understood, be unaffordable. Ultimately, we believe that it poses long-term risks to the Scottish budget, both now and for future Governments.

The finance committee still has reservations about the sequencing that the Scottish Government has opted for in introducing this bill, and, as is stated in our report, we are not convinced that the FM meets the requirements set out in the Parliament’s standing orders to provide

“best estimates of the costs, savings, and changes to revenues to which the provisions of the Bill would give rise”.

We will scrutinise closely the updates on the expenditure that would be incurred, as has been committed to by the minister, alongside any savings that would arise from the bill, but we request that those updates be provided every six months, as the committee recommended, rather than as the regulations are developed, as is proposed by the minister.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call Maurice Golden to open on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

At the outset, I note that the Scottish Conservatives support the general principles of the bill. A circular economy is an economic system whereby materials are circulated in as high a value state for as long as possible in order to extract the maximum economic, social and environmental value from them.

The “Circularity Gap Report Scotland” estimates that circular economy policies could result in our emissions dropping by 43 per cent and our resource consumption being reduced by almost half. However, progress has been painfully slow, with Scotland’s economy being just 1.3 per cent circular, as my colleague Edward Mountain said.

Unfortunately, as drafted, the Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill will not deliver the change that we need. In fact, it feels more like a reaction to missing the 2013 household recycling target than a serious attempt to deliver a circular economy.

If we factor in the proposals on littering and fly-tipping, what the Scottish Government has presented is not so much a circular economy bill as a waste and litter bill. Even at a basic level, the bill does not explicitly set itself the mission of driving the system that is needed to encourage prevention and reuse.

Members are well aware of my personal commitment to building a circular economy. In fact, when it looked like the Scottish Government had all but abandoned a circular economy bill, I offered to introduce one myself. The minister therefore knows that I am being sincere when I say that I stand ready to work constructively to strengthen the bill.

It needs to be strengthened, not least because it has been introduced as a framework bill. That means that there is precious little detail, which is a concern that has been highlighted by the Finance and Public Administration Committee and the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee. It also means that there is no guarantee of when, or even if, ministers will take action.

The provision to publish a circular economy strategy is a good place to address such concerns, not that legislation is required to construct said strategy. A robust process would signal a determination to act, so I hope that the Scottish Government pays heed to the concerns that have been raised about the current proposals, from an inadequate consultation process to a lack of clarity about how the Parliament will scrutinise draft strategies.

We need similar robustness when it comes to setting statutory targets for developing a circular economy, but the Scottish Government wants to make setting targets optional. It cannot possibly expect households and businesses to take the circular economy seriously if it says that it is only optional. I appreciate that the Scottish Government has a poor track record on statutory targets, having missed eight of the past 12 emissions targets, not to mention today’s bombshell from the UK Climate Change Committee that the Scottish National Party-Green coalition is set to miss the 2030 net zero target, saying that it is “beyond what is credible”. That is a complete and utter dereliction of duty.

There is clearly a need for ministers to be more accountable for missed targets. They could make things easier for themselves by ensuring that underlying policies are firmly rooted in evidence. That is not always the case, however. The proposal to restrict the disposal of unsold goods cited France as a model, so we might think that Scottish Government ministers would have spoken to their French counterparts about it, but the minister has confirmed that they have not. Similarly, it is not immediately apparent what assessment has been done on the priority materials that are identified in the circular economy route map.

I turn back to household waste. Proposals to develop a new waste and recycling code of practice for local authorities, along with local recycling targets, could help to drive up recycling rates. Local authorities also need to be committed to that aim. Glasgow City Council has proven year on year that it is not committed to that, but it will not matter unless local authorities are given the resources to do the job.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I remind the member, although I am sure that he knows, that Glasgow City Council has recently received the largest tranche of recycling improvement fund money that has been given out to date.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

My point is that Glasgow City Council has proven year on year that it does not care about driving up household recycling rates. That is its track record, and it is very much evident. It is nearly impossible to have such low recycling rates; I am trying to work out in my head how it is kept so low.

It is clear that COSLA and waste experts have a role to play in ensuring that such proposals fit the circumstances of different local authorities, especially those of island and rural authorities.

Similarly, penalising households that have failed to live up to their responsibilities should be a last resort. Everyone in society has a responsibility for their own waste, but the default approach should be one of education and positive engagement. Again, local authorities need to have the resources for that.

The concerns that exist are not insurmountable, but finding solutions will require all stakeholders to work constructively. There is so much that the bill should cover, from public procurement to system design, from take-back provisions to sustainable consumption and from reuse targets to scope 3 emissions reporting. That is what I want to see in the bill, and I hope that that is what the minister wants, so let us get on and do it.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I invite Sarah Boyack to open the debate on behalf of Scottish Labour.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I welcome today’s debate, because Scottish Labour strongly supports the principle of legislation on the circular economy. However, I echo the point that a lot of work still needs to be done to ensure that the bill really is a circular economy bill and not just a recycling bill.

First, I thank the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, its clerks and all those who gave evidence. I also thank the organisations that have sent us briefings in advance of today’s debate. I note that the change of timing means that we might not have considered them all in detail, but they will be very useful in the run-up to the stage 2 amendment process.

I want to be up front about the fact that the stage 2 discussions on the bill will be crucial, because there is so much in the bill that needs to be amended and clarified. It is a framework bill, and there are key areas in which we need more detail and in which a respectful partnership with local authorities needs to be developed and investment needs to be provided to ensure that the aspirations of the bill will be met.

We heard some nice words from the minister about the relationship with local authorities, but we need to see the detail. With regard to progress, we need to see the key milestones and the dates for reaching those. We also need to know how the code of practice will be produced and how the Parliament will be consulted. That has been mentioned already.

I know from talking to my colleagues in Wales that the approach that has been taken there shows what can be done when the Government and local authorities work together. Over the past decade, the Welsh Labour Government has invested £1 billion to enable local authorities to gear up and deliver the infrastructure that is needed in communities across Wales. The Welsh Government’s approach works. Crucially, its investment has led to a recycling level of 64 per cent being achieved, and a statutory target of 70 per cent has been set for next year.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

I am very interested in the success in Wales that Sarah Boyack has described. Does she support the Welsh Government’s approach being applied to Scotland?

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

What is key is that we have co-operation, partnership and funding. That is the critical issue that I want to come on to. I have welcomed the work of the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, but the Finance and Public Administration Committee was pretty blunt in its comments, as we have heard. We must ensure that the proposed addition of new responsibilities is funded, otherwise it will be incredibly damaging to our councils, not to mention ineffective from an output perspective.

In its report, the Finance and Public Administration Committee said:

The Committee is concerned that this lack of clarity concerning the funding required for local authorities to align with a new, upgraded, mandatory code of practice could render the approach unaffordable and unsustainable.”

Worryingly, as we have heard, it commented that the financial memorandum is “not adequate”. As I have said, although the minister gave us some nice warm words, we need more detail. As well as hearing about what might happen, we need to see the adoption of a much more co-ordinated approach.

Because the bill is a framework bill, it creates major concerns about a lack of effective parliamentary scrutiny, especially if the minister intends to react quickly. We need proper consultation for parliamentarians, for stakeholders and for businesses. We need targets that will be deliverable, because that is critical for the creation of a circular economy. At the moment, the focus is on recycling. More needs to be said about the potential for redesigning products so that more reuse and repair opportunities can be created in our communities. There needs to be investment to enable that to happen. That means clarity in relation to recycling.

We need an approach that reflects the different challenges across the country. Ensuring that there is accountability for separating waste and for effective recycling is important, but we need communications from the Scottish Government and local authorities.

In my area, city centre residents who live in flats or tenements and who are doing the right thing by separating their waste and trying to reuse products could still be fined if it is deemed that somebody has put the wrong waste in the wrong box and it is their fault. I welcome the fact that we have heard today from the minister that she intends to remove the penalties in the bill for individual constituents; I am glad that that approach is being taken.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I want to clarify a point to ensure that the member has not misunderstood me. The provision for fining local authorities, which is the Welsh approach, is the provision that I have been discussing with COSLA and not the provision that the member has just referenced. Currently, the bill takes a criminal approach if people do not desist from contaminating recycling once they have received a notification. The approach for local authorities to apply a more proportionate measure on that issue is still part of the bill.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I hope that I will get s ome of my time back.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You get a bit of time back, Ms Boyack.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

Thank you for that.

When the minister goes into detail is when we get worried, is it not? In the way that she presented what she would change at stage 2, I clearly saw it as addressing the concerns that many MSPs have raised. The challenge is that people who live in flats or tenements and in city centres could be incorrectly blamed for somebody else’s failure to address the concerns about the bill properly, so we need more consultation on that point and more discussion at stage 2.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

The member is bringing her remarks to a close.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I need to get to the end of my speech.

We cannot ignore the issue of how much waste we export from Scotland, and we know that our consumption emissions have increased. I hope that the minister will commit to supporting amendments to address that issue at stage 2 and commit to effective monitoring, because the principle of carbon consumption targets and the analysis of our international carbon footprint are key if we are to deliver a just transition. That is not currently in the bill, which needs to change.

I want to hear from the minister about the Office for the Internal Market work to ensure that the regulations will be deliverable. That is critical, particularly given the deposit return scheme fiasco.

There must be support and encouragement for businesses, because, if we are to have a circular economy, we need more than what is in the bill. The Scottish Government could take a lead by ensuring that its own purchasing procurement works to incentivise products that are designed with circular economy principles baked in from the start.

The principle of building a circular economy has to be what we deliver in the bill, with sectoral approaches and action from day 1, such as reducing our reliance on single-use products and ending food waste. The waste hierarchy is key: we need to redesign products to prevent waste in the first place; we need to prepare for reuse, recycling—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You must bring your remarks to a close, Ms Boyack.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

Let us have amendments to deliver a circular economy and not just a recycling bill.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

The debate suddenly feels all the more timely: having been brought forward by 24 hours, it now helpfully coincides with the sobering confirmation from the United Kingdom Committee on Climate Change that the prospect of Scotland meeting its 2030 climate target is now “beyond what is credible”.

UKCCC chief executive Chris Stark has been characteristically blunt, criticising the Government for having

“no plan in place to get anywhere close to hitting” the target. Chris Stark was clear in stating that it is

“a failure of the Scottish Government to bring forward to the Scottish people and the Scottish Parliament a climate change plan that is fit for purpose.”

For an SNP-Green Government that is fond of trumpeting firsts, Mr Stark added that

“this is the first time, anywhere in the UK” that the UKCCC has said that

“there’s a target that can’t be met.”

The context for today’s debate and the legislation that we are considering is both clear and challenging.

In customary fashion, I add my thanks to the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee and the Finance and Public Administration Committee for their stage 1 scrutiny work on the Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill. I also add my thanks to the minister. My remarks this afternoon will focus primarily on concerns that have been raised, but I have been grateful to Lorna Slater for her willingness over recent months to engage constructively with me on the bill.

Fundamentally, though, engaging on the bill has been far from straightforward, as both the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee and the Finance and Public Administration Committee have found to their obvious frustration. A lack of any real detail in the framework bill makes it incredibly difficult to scrutinise or even understand, in the broadest possible sense, what impact it will have on reducing our reliance on carbon-intensive extraction and use of materials.

The bill commits ministers to publishing a circular economy strategy, which is, of course, very welcome, and provides them with a wide range of powers to be used in enacting the strategy. However, we remain in the dark about how those powers might be used; even the current consultation on a circular economy route map simply focuses on policies within the scope of existing powers.

The commitment to co-decision policies with councils and wider stakeholders is all very well, but the decision to press ahead with introducing the bill before that process has been completed—or, in some cases, even commenced—is worrying. It certainly leaves Parliament in an invidious position. As the Finance and Public Administration Committee pointed out, it makes financial scrutiny

“incredibly challenging, if not impossible.”

It is part of a pattern, as we are seeing with the Government’s hapless attempts to centralise care services.

There are obvious risks with the bill, and not just the difficulties for Parliament in carrying out its responsibilities for scrutiny. It vests significant future powers in ministers, as Sarah Boyack pointed out, and reduces their accountability to Parliament, stakeholders and the wider public. In turn, that heightens the risk of any legislation falling apart on impact with reality which, again, is not an unknown phenomenon for the Government. Likewise, the risks of future powers coming into conflict with the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 can be increased only by the approach that is being taken here.

We presently have two Governments that seem to love nothing more than a constitutional spat, but our climate and, indeed, our economy can ill afford more DRS disasters littering the legislative landscape. Ministers must give more detail about their intentions, or the bill should be given teeth, with more specific requirements and ministerial obligations placed in the bill. One example, which the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee has identified, is setting targets for producer responsibility that extend from packaging to products. That could include take-back, requiring producers to accept the return of a set proportion of their products after consumption and to refurbish and reuse a percentage of those products. That could ease the burden of circularity on cash-strapped councils and individuals and provide a welcome incentive to manufacturers to produce according to circular economy standards, which I know that COSLA has been keen to press during stage 1.

Overall, however, as the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee rightly says, there needs to be a balance between consumer and producer liability. In saying that, I make my usual plea for any provisions to be properly and robustly island proofed. I have made that point to the minister during our various discussions over recent months and I have no hesitation in doing so again today. Take-back schemes perhaps offer a perfect illustration of something that might work very well across most of the country, but I suspect that in island communities the logistics and infrastructure required will inevitably present very different challenges. I urge the minister and the committees to keep that in mind as they consider amendments to the bill during stage 2.

For now, notwithstanding the misgivings that I have outlined and the work that is obviously needed to get the bill into shape, Scottish Liberal Democrats will support the bill at decision time.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

We move to the open debate.

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

As somebody who does not like nonsensical waste and believes in the efficient use of resources as reasonably as possible, I believe in the circular economy as a good in itself. The circular economy is not a new concept, but it is a re-emerging trend. Our consideration of the bill is part of that shift in social consciousness. Borrowing a book from a library, shopping in a charity shop or buying anything second hand—there are many other examples—is the circular economy.

The concept is long standing but, due to a number of factors, building a more circular economy is trending. The bill’s ambition is to progress development of a more circular economy with more and better reuse, refurbishment and recycling. That trend is partly a response to the increased use of single-use items in recent decades, but I do not think that that should be the focus. We would be better to focus on the benefits of reusing and refurbishment rather than on the detriments of single use.

It is encouraging that trends towards a more circular economy are already happening as we consider this legislation. For example, in my constituency, Edinburgh Northern and Leith, we have the Edinburgh Remakery, the Edinburgh Tool Library and Weigh To Go, which my committee visited. Nationally, there are so many examples. There is the OVO Hydro, in Glasgow, with its reusable cup facility, and ReBlade, a remarkable company that works on renewable approaches to the circular economy using blades from wind farms. Internationally, there are facilities such as Vinted and Gumtree. The list goes on.

The challenge is in how we legislate in a way that usefully develops that, and how the Government can inform, support and encourage—rather than punish—the public and businesses, which, in my experience, want to do the right thing. We need the Government to lead on system change, communications, coherence and infrastructure. Measures to tackle unsustainable consumption and supply chains are part of that, but we need to be mindful of the restraints on the Government’s ability in that area in the Scottish context. Perhaps there is more that we can do on producer responsibilities, particularly on items such as sofas and mattresses, which end up being fly-tipped in constituencies such as mine. If we focus on business practices and supporting reuse in a deliverable and meaningful way, we can ensure that the bill will make an impactful difference.

It is complicated, but an area that the bill should focus on, although it does not do so at the moment, is construction. My committee heard that 50 per cent of the waste in the Scottish economy relates to construction. We must consider the role of the built environment, not just its waste but the opportunities and the jobs that could be created in that area. That was relayed to us by the Built Environment Forum Scotland, the Resource Management Association Scotland and the architectural firm Page\Park. I would like to work with the Government on an amendment that relates to construction, whether that is through a specific identification in the strategy or something that we can do in the bill. We need facilities to enable people who work in the construction trade to reuse materials.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

Does the member support mandatory scope 3 emissions reporting for the construction sector?

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

I would need to look into that in more detail, but I would be delighted to receive more information on it.

Given that the construction industry accounts for 50 per cent of the waste in the Scottish economy, we have to include it. Otherwise, it seems naturally unjust to me to put obligations, and potentially sanctions, on households and consumers and not look at the area of the economy that produces the most waste.

On household waste, we need better reuse facilities. I have an iron that is broken, and there is nowhere in our capital city that I can go and get it fixed; that is where we are. We need investment in the third sector from the public sector and we need local authority hubs and infrastructure. That will also help to reduce fly-tipping. We need to make it easier for people, because people want to do the right thing. I agree with Liam McArthur—and it was emphasised in the report—that we need a standardised recycling process that is island proofed. Not only will that make it easier for people to recycle, it will reduce costs, bring more investment and make communications easier, which is a problem at the moment.

There are good arguments for charging for single-use items. The plastic bag charge has made a difference. However, I am not yet convinced about a charge for disposable beverage cups. I worry about what that will do in the cost of living crisis because of the impact on small businesses and the inconvenience that it will create. It is different from a plastic bag charge. I refer the minister to the feedback from the Scottish Hospitality Group on that. Perhaps we should take an approach that focuses on health and fire risk and environmental damage, rather than only single use. If we are going to have a charge, the businesses that collect it should be able spend it on charities of their choosing. Lastly, is there anything more antisocial than littering from vehicles? I fully support the charge relating to that.

This is a good start, and the bill has potential to be great and have a long-lasting impact, but let us work together to make it better.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

I find myself today in a state of déjà vu. I recently spoke in the stage 1 debate on the cladding bill on issues around cladding and fire safety. I said in that debate that I would very reluctantly support the general principles of what I saw as a deficient bill but that that support would expire if improvements were not made. That is also my view of this bill, hence the sense of déjà vu.

This is yet another framework bill that leaves so many questions unanswered and which would give the Government sweeping powers to potentially do some pretty shocking things, all with little parliamentary oversight. The net zero committee makes that point very strongly and it is right to do so. It is hard to argue with the general principles of the bill, but the Government does not need legislation to have a strategy or set targets—it can just get on and do that.

I will start with the report from the finance committee. We have already heard some of it. The report states:

“Based on the evidence we received, the Committee believes that enforcement costs are likely to have been underestimated and, while we note the Minister’s argument that these powers would be used at local authorities’ discretion, they should nevertheless be accurately reflected in the FM. Ensuring that all local authorities are financially able to utilise the enforcement powers will be important if the Bill’s ambitions are to be delivered.”

It goes on to say:

The Committee notes the cost estimates from Zero Waste Scotland of bringing all local authorities into alignment with the existing code of practice would be £88.4 million. We are therefore unclear how much more funding will be required to support local authorities to meet any ‘further requirements’ in the proposed mandatory code which the Scottish Government considers necessary to meet its waste targets.”

It is a pretty damning report and, not for the first time, the finance committee has slated a bill for not having realistic costs.

I have very real concerns about the sweeping powers that the Government wants to award itself. On charges for single-use items, that could include a container that people might get a takeaway meal in—a fish and chip tax. What about the proposed bin fines if people have the wrong items in their bins? I can see responsible people putting out their bins, only for someone else to come along and put something else in them, and then be hit with a fine. Also, what do we do about people who live in flats with communal bins—if the bins have the wrong items in them, do all those people get fined? I do not know. It does not say in the bill.

There is a suite of responsibilities for councils, but there is no financial recompense. The net zero committee made that point in its stage 1 report when it said:

“We are aware of the pressures local authorities are facing which makes increasing recycling performance challenging. The prospect of penalising councils for failing to meet targets seems counterproductive and only serves to exacerbate existing constraints on local authority budgets.”

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

I heard the minister earlier, so I take the point that she wants to make on board. The minister is giving me a thumbs up to that—good.

Indeed, Consumer Scotland said:

“Additional support may be needed for local authorities with higher levels of geographic isolation or deprivation.”

The point about geographic isolation has already been made.

Perhaps the most damaging aspect of the bill is the section about restrictions on the disposal of unsold goods. I do not know of any business that would want to deliberately have unsold goods lying around. It does not make economic sense. The whole section is incredibly vague, but we could have a situation where small and large businesses are being fined simply for having excess stock. That is highly likely to lead to a cross-border trade in stock just to avoid Lorna Slater’s unsold goods tax. However, Ms Slater has not spoken to the UK Government about the potential implications of the bill in relation to the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020, or at least she had not when she gave a comment to

The Scotsman on 9 March—maybe she has since. You would think that she might have learned her lesson on that from the deposit return debacle—apparently not.

There is a large section on littering from a vehicle; most of us would call that fly-tipping. That needs to be tackled, because it is a blight on our communities. Murdo Fraser, the Scottish Conservatives’ very own Great Uncle Bulgaria, will have more to say about that. [


.] Sorry about that.

The bill needs to be improved, but we also need more in it and less in regulation. The Government has to be put on notice that it needs to spell out its thinking in more detail. A circular economy—[


.] I am struggling to get through this. A circular economy is one in which we reuse more, throw less away and cut down on waste. We would all agree with that.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Thank you, Mr Simpson. I am very grateful to have learned something entirely new about Uncle Bulgaria and the Wombles. I call Bob Doris, to be followed by Monica Lennon.

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

The Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill presents a real opportunity to tackle various environmental blights on which we all wish to see action, including charges for single-use items such as coffee cups, as has been mentioned; fly-tipping, also from cars; greater penalties for those who commercially fly-tip and for households who take those too-good-to-be-true deals for the removal of goods. We all know the ones where a man with a van takes away your old bathroom or kitchen for a few pounds. Do households really believe that such operators are acting to dispose of waste ethically or appropriately? I doubt it.

Households must take reasonable steps to ensure that waste is uplifted by a reputable operator, or they could face fines—and quite rightly so. One of our committee’s suggestions was for action to streamline and standardise domestic waste collection across local authorities, as we heard from the convener. Much more significant matters are contained in the bill; I deliberately highlighted charges for single-use items, fly-tipping and domestic waste first because they can have a direct and visible impact on our everyday lives. On that front, I welcome the Scottish Government seeking to work with local authorities to move to a free kerbside collection service. We are committed to that across Scotland, because I think that charges for kerbside collection and household collection would have a detrimental impact on our local environments.

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

I will, if I can get the time back.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Let us try to accommodate the intervention within the time.

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

Does Bob Doris agree that, because of facilities being far away or people not being informed, some people inadvertently fly-tip and that free collections would make a difference in that regard?

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

There is inadvertent fly-tipping or unwitting fly-tipping, but that is because people do not always understand that the free collection has been removed and they put their refuse where they have always put it, despite the fact that charges will apply. It will vary across local authorities, but it needs to be tackled.

However, the bill should do more by placing responsibility at a sectoral level, a producer level and a procurement level, not just with consumers. It should seek to tackle overproduction, reduce waste and embed a reuse and recycle culture into how we all go about our everyday business. That approach should sit at the heart of the bill. We need to work with Scotland’s public and private sectors to take meaningful action to tackle overconsumption and to reduce waste. There is no doubting the scale of the challenge, which the committee has recognised. The bill is only one part of a much larger picture, as the Government has acknowledged.

The development of a new circular economy strategy, placed on a statutory footing, sits at the core of the bill, and it will be key. The strategy will set the tone and the direction for years to come. I would like to consider the yet-to-be-developed strategy from an international perspective. Indeed, that point is highlighted in section 180 of our report. The committee notes that it was suggested in evidence that section 1(3) of the bill could include global considerations and the aim to do no harm. In particular, a joint submission from international charities, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund and Siembra Colombia suggested that the provision could be strengthened by placing a requirement on Scottish ministers to say that the strategy

“must have regard for the goal of promoting international realisation of human rights in supply chains”.

Strengthening the bill in such a way could help Scotland’s public sector to make the most effective use of our purchasing and procurement powers, while sharpening our understanding of what are often global supply chains. It could help drive change in the private sector to do better in this area, too. I stress that we should drive that change in partnership with industry—not against it. Perhaps there is a mechanism by which the global south could have a meaningful input into how Scotland develops its strategy in the first place.

I will return to where I started. For many who, understandably, will not follow the finer details of legislation as it goes through the Parliament, the visible aspects of the bill will be what they can see in their own neighbourhoods. That means that, for some, success will not be judged on the circular economy ambitions, as vital as they are; it will be judged on whether they see less fly-tipping—on whether they see fewer coffee cups and disposable vapes dumped across their communities.

We cannot always legislate for that; some of it involves behavioural change. MSPs from all parties will know that littering can be endemic within communities. No sooner is an area cleaned up than, the next day, it is as bad as it ever was. All councils of all political persuasions get it in the neck—“Why don’t you clear up the litter in our communities?”—even though they did precisely that the day before.

We need behavioural change globally and nationally, and by local authorities in terms of a circular economy. We also need real behavioural change locally. That involves all our attitudes and how we respect our local environment.

Photo of Monica Lennon Monica Lennon Labour

As a member of the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, I am pleased to be speaking in the debate. I associate myself with the remarks of the committee’s convener, Edward Mountain. Other committees have been involved, and I record my thanks to our clerks, the Scottish Parliament information centre’s team and the many witnesses who informed our evidence. We had 10 evidence sessions and we made 80 recommendations.

Although we are having a robust debate about the bill today, there is a lot of passion and a lot of agreement. We need to become a more circular Scotland—no one disputes that—so we need to harness that passion.

We have been hearing from people in our communities and the local authorities in our areas about how we can make things better. Sarah Boyack, my Labour colleague, is absolutely correct to say that stage 2 will be crucial. I believe that the minister’s door is open for work with colleagues and people across the country; we all have to co-operate.

I hope that Ben Macpherson finds someone to repair his iron by the end of the debate. I did a wee Google search and have sent him a link to a business in Edinburgh that might be able to help. It is a matter of knowing where to go—

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

Monica Lennon was starting to make a point about knowing where to go. We need greater awareness and a greater number of facilities.

Photo of Monica Lennon Monica Lennon Labour

Absolutely. We have demonstrated that on the record in the Parliament, just now.

I think that we all agree that the bill is necessary: we need legislation. In 2022, Keep Scotland Beautiful declared a litter emergency in Scotland. That there is an emergency is undeniable. Despite years of campaigning, with people doing litter picks and trying their best to recycle, we still have a massive problem with litter. That is a symptom of a much wider issue and of our reliance on a linear economic model, in which we continually extract new resources to make new things and new products, then throw them away before starting all over again. We have to break that cycle.

There have been serious impacts here in Scotland and around the world. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has data to show that, between 2018 and 2022, around 100 tonnes of plastic packaging waste was shipped from Scotland overseas every single month. That is a real scandal.

The question is what the bill can do to tackle that. Other members have expressed concern that there is too much focus on the recycling part of the waste hierarchy. I believe that the minister will take that in the spirit in which it is intended. We need to look at other aspects of the waste hierarchy.

We have heard that there is a lot of passion for reuse and repair. The example that I will touch on today—people who know me know that I talk about this a lot—is reusable nappies. We need to make it easier for people who want to do the right thing environmentally but are worried about cost and other barriers. In the spirit of that collaborative approach, the minister and I are doing a fact-finding visit next week to North Ayrshire Council. Since 2019, it has been leading the way not only in Scotland, but in the UK. Third sector partners are involved with the local authority. The approach was brought in by my Labour colleague Councillor Joe Cullinane and has been continued by a Scottish National Party Administration. It is the kind of thing that can help all our constituents and it is cost neutral for the local authority. I am considering lodging amendments at stage 2 to see how we can do that with our local authorities—not by telling them what to do but by enabling them and giving them the confidence to work in that way.

Another big issue in the bill is food: we need to do much more to reduce food waste. We have the scandal of ever-increasing food poverty and food insecurity while we are also seeing food waste increasing.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I flag to Monica Lennon, and to the chamber, that I recently received a copy of a letter from the British Retail Consortium to my colleague Steve Barclay in London, asking for mandatory food waste reporting to help to measure and to judge food waste, based on the understanding that food waste contributes 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. I assume that

Monica Lennon welcomes the fact that industry is also looking at food waste and is asking us to put in place exactly the sort of provisions that are in the bill.

Photo of Monica Lennon Monica Lennon Labour

We absolutely need industry to play its part, but we know that that does not happen voluntarily, so we need legislation.

Colleagues have mentioned France; we know that California is also a really good example of where, through legislation, there are now requirements on households and businesses to separate green waste and food waste, to donate edible waste to food recovery groups and to recycle the rest. More can be done at stage 2 on that.

Time is short. Others, including Bob Doris, have talked about the international impact of what we are doing. We got really good evidence from the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund. I will not repeat its points because it has provided a good briefing.

We know that there is a big issue with clothing and textiles, and with food waste being exported. As Ben Macpherson said, there are economic benefits, but this is also about the social imperative. We know that where the environment is exploited, people are often exploited, too. Fashion Revolution Scotland influenced me heavily. It came together because of the disaster in Rana Plaza that killed thousands of garment workers. People are working in the most awful exploitative conditions and are losing their lives and their health so that people like us in the global north can buy cheap clothes that we might wear only once then throw away.

We can do a lot through lodging amendments to the bill and through the strategy. However, as others have said, we need co-operation and collaboration, and we need certainty around funding, which means costed plans. I hope that we can, if we put all those things together, work towards a more circular Scotland.

Photo of Jackie Dunbar Jackie Dunbar Scottish National Party

As a member of the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, looking at the basic principles of the bill has been of great interest to me, so I am pleased to take part in today’s debate.

I take this opportunity to record my thanks to the clerks, SPICe, and all the people who took the time to give evidence and engage in the process. In the spirit of reduce, reuse and recycle, I might just repeat most of this speech in the stage 3 debate.

It is important to recognise, as the committee’s report does early on, that there are two major aspects to closing the loop, as we seek to move from a linear economy—in which resources are extracted to make products that are then bought, used and thrown away—to a circular economy. Closing the loop to create a circular economy requires action at both ends of our current linear economy: it requires action at the start to reduce the amount of resources that are being extracted and to temper consumption, and at the end in relation to how waste is reduced and managed.

The committee’s report outlines that there is currently more focus on the end stages of that process than on tackling consumption and on concrete measures to encourage repair and reuse. To me, that is at least partly due to the powers that the Parliament currently has and what powers we know we can use without undue influence from the Tories through the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020. If the Scottish Parliament had more control over affairs in Scotland, so much more could be done to reduce demand for virgin materials, to incentivise reusing and recycling materials, to incentivise making and selling products with longer lifespans, and to influence the behaviour of consumers and businesses alike.

Nonetheless, the bill is, within the powers that we have, an ambitious bill that will lay the foundations for a better, cleaner and greener tomorrow. It shows once again that Scotland is committed to tackling climate change.

The proposals in the bill are in line with the just transition principles. Just transition is particularly important to many of my constituents and is—members will not be surprised to hear me say this—another step on a journey that will see Aberdeen becoming the net zero capital of the world.

The committee made a number of recommendations in the report; I will use my remaining time to focus on just a few. First, the bill is, for the most part, a framework bill. I am pleased that that is recognised in the committee report, along with the view that is shared by me and others that its being so is a pragmatic approach that will allow us to keep up the momentum towards a circular economy by creating the broad legal powers that the Scottish Government will need. That set-up will allow for policy to be further refined, following consultation, before detailed regulations are made.

When it comes to the strategy to achieve a circular economy, the committee report rightly makes the case that the bill must not disproportionately put on consumers the burden of achieving a circular economy. There must be accountability of producers for the environmental impacts of the products that they make. Products—including Ben Macpherson’s iron—should be designed to be longer lasting, reusable and repairable. For me, those characteristics have long been the marks of quality in a product, and should be the norm rather than the exception. Ideally, when a product finally reaches the end of its economic lifespan, it should also be easily recyclable.

The report also goes into great detail about whether targets should be set, what those targets should be and how the targets would be measured. The report’s recommendation is that setting targets should be an obligation, not an option. In the chamber, we talk a lot about how Scotland is leading the world on climate change, and those targets—if they are proportionate to the urgency of what we face—will provide a means to ensure that Scotland continues to lead on climate action.

Restriction of disposal of unsold consumer goods is supported by the committee. The report says:

“Clearly, it is in nobody’s best interests for perfectly reusable materials and products to be disposed of rather than redistributed or repurposed. Restrictions could be an effective way of reinforcing measures that many businesses are already putting in place to prevent wastage while also delivering economic and social benefits.”

Quite bluntly, in the midst of a cost of living crisis, it infuriates me that some companies would rather destroy their stock than make it available to others at low or no cost.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

Does Jackie Dunbar accept that missing eight out of 12 legal emissions targets does not chime with being world leading on climate change?

Photo of Jackie Dunbar Jackie Dunbar Scottish National Party

I said that it is our ambition to be world leading. I never said that we are, at this moment in time.

It is welcome that the general principles of the bill are supported. The bill is not perfect at this stage—no bill ever is. There is work to be done, there are discussions to be had and there are amendments to be made, which will be done as the bill progresses.

The principles that will see Scotland moving away from having a linear economy towards a circular economy are there, so I look forward to seeing the bill progress to the next stage.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

I welcome the Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill coming to the chamber for the stage 1 debate. Clearly, the bill is not the final destination, but it is a critical step in the journey towards a truly circular economy in Scotland in which Mr Macpherson can easily get his iron repaired anywhere, in any community. The Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee has unanimously backed the general principles of the bill, so there is little division between us on what it seeks to achieve. It will drive improvements in household recycling, which has, sadly, been plateauing for years; tackle littering and fly-tipping; and deliver greater producer responsibility and reuse further up the waste hierarchy.

I want to address a number of members’ concerns about the nature of this framework bill. I acknowledge that we are seeing a trend across the Governments in the UK of relying more heavily on secondary legislation that grants ministers new powers. However, the Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill recognises that, first and foremost, new schemes that could be introduced on, for example, food packaging will have to be developed in collaboration with businesses, councils and other stakeholders. That means that it will take time to develop regulations that will work in the real world. Putting all those details up front now, in primary legislation, would not be in the spirit of the co-production that the Government is seeking to develop through the bill.

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

Does the member also acknowledge that concerns were raised about the impact of the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 and that putting everything in the bill might ultimately lead to it not being compliant with the 2020 act? A framework bill offers flexibility, allowing us to modify the legislation as we go along.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

Absolutely. I turn to that key concern now. Even if we had perfectly formed schemes that could be put into legislation at this point, there would still be the matter of the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020. That act allowed Scotland’s deposit return scheme to become a plaything of the Secretary of State for Scotland. Permission was withheld until the last minute, only for that to be granted but with a set of conditions that were impossible to meet. The central condition that the UK Government set was a requirement that our DRS must align with an English scheme that did not exist. That was a wrecking ball, because the UK Government recently announced that it had scrapped plans to have such a scheme in England.

There is a better and more sensible way forward on schemes and regulations that need to mesh across the UK: negotiation and agreement between Governments under common frameworks. There are examples where that has worked well, particularly with the agreements to ban single-use plastic and, most recently, to ban disposable vapes. That shows that Green and Tory ministers working together can deliver progress—I am sure that that is Mr Simpson’s dream—but it would be premature to put new schemes in primary legislation.

It is important that, where framework legislation is being used, Parliament can properly scrutinise the secondary legislation that will be introduced on the back of that. With the original DRS, the super-affirmative procedure allowed Parliament more time to discuss the early regulations with stakeholders and it also gave the Government an opportunity to amend the legislation prior to laying it before Parliament. I therefore think that there is a case for more detailed scrutiny of some of the powers in the bill. I agree with the NZET Committee that the minister should probably re-examine where it might be appropriate to use a form of super-affirmative procedure in some cases.

It is also important to recognise that the bill does not sit in isolation. Extended producer responsibility—EPR—across the UK will also be driving progress, and new Scottish legislation is not required in every area to bring in new schemes and approaches. There should be cross-UK collaboration on EPR schemes for items such as vapes and other products that have been designed with little thought for their environmental impact or life cycle. The circular economy strategy will set out the actions that will be taken in the coming years with the flexibility that is needed for our understanding of Scotland’s use and disposal of goods and materials to be informed by emerging data and developments.

I welcome the bill’s provisions to place restrictions on the disposal of unsold consumer goods. Keeping goods in use for as long as possible before they are passed on and reused is fundamental to a circular economy. Scrapping items before they have even been used is in no one’s interests, except perhaps the shareholders of Amazon. The provisions on unsold goods mean that businesses must start taking different approaches to managing their stock and start prioritising good product design at the outset.

I am also pleased that the bill will introduce powers to set new mandatory reporting requirements on businesses’ waste surplus. That will lead to improved data that can be used to inform future strategies.

A number of members have mentioned reducing food waste. That not only reduces our environmental impact but can, with creative redistribution, address food poverty and inequality.

One improvement that could be made to the bill is to make reporting on circularity a part of the process of applying for public sector grants and loans.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

I think that I am out of time, unfortunately.

Around £420 million in the Scottish budget is currently allocated to supporting businesses in relation to enterprise and trade. Bringing reporting requirements into the application process for that would provide a flexible tool for embedding circularity more widely without additional costs to the public purse. It is not about setting targets for companies to receive public money; it is about asking them to account for their circularity practices and to outline where they intend to improve. We have heard a number of examples of where that could be brought in.

I look forward to discussions with the minister, as I am sure many other members do, on that and other matters ahead of stage 2. Today, however, I am very pleased, as a Green MSP, to support the principles of the bill at stage 1.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

Earlier in the debate, Maurice Golden said that the bill is more of a littering and fly-tipping bill than a circular economy bill. He said that like it was a bad thing, but I am very happy to talk about littering and fly-tipping. I say gently to my friend Graham Simpson that I have always considered myself more of a Tobermory than a Great Uncle Bulgaria. Members of a certain vintage will recognise that allusion, but others who are younger will have no idea what we are referring to.

We have a serious, significant and growing problem of communities across Scotland being blighted by fly-tipping and littering. We saw some evidence of an increase in fly-tipping during Covid, particularly in rural areas, which was perhaps linked to the fact that many legal routes to dispose of waste were closed due to restrictions on the opening of local authority recycling centres. However, it is not just a rural problem. It also affects many parts of urban Scotland, as we have heard in the debate. It is also a problem where we see organised crime—and we believe that it is playing an increasing role—as fly-tipping can be seen as an easy way to generate a revenue stream with a low risk of being detected and, if one is caught, low penalties. Revenue is generated by taking waste away, often from legitimate sources, and dumping it, thus making cash at a relatively low risk. We need to be aware of that.

We are very aware of the challenges of detecting the crime, of enforcement, and of the level of penalties and whether they act as a suitable disincentive. Although people can be prosecuted for severe cases of fly-tipping, the number of prosecutions is just a handful. Indeed, a large percentage of the reports that go to the Procurator Fiscal Service do not end up in the courts. That is also a factor in making fly-tipping a risk-free way of making money for criminal gangs.

Photo of Jackie Dunbar Jackie Dunbar Scottish National Party

I am genuinely interested in the evidence that we discussed in the committee regarding fly-tipping. Questions were asked a couple of times about who should be held responsible and fined for it. Should it be the person who has bought the services of the white van man, or the householder? I am very interested to hear the member’s views on that.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

Jackie Dunbar has made a very good intervention. If she will bear with me, I will come on to precisely that point in a moment. Before I move on to discuss that in more detail, however, I have one other general point to make.

The question of the availability and accessibility of legal routes for waste disposal is important. The more we make it expensive and difficult to dispose of goods legally, the more incentive we create for fly-tipping. We have seen that when, for example, local authorities have restricted opening hours at recycling centres and, in some cases, brought in queuing systems and pre-booking systems. That makes it more difficult to dispose of goods legally and creates an incentive to fly tip.

Colleagues will be aware that I ran a member’s bill consultation on prospective changes in the law, which looked at four aspects. One was improving data collection, which is an issue that is identified in the Scottish Government’s strategy. A variety of bodies are involved, including local authorities, Zero Waste Scotland and SEPA, with its dumb dumpers hotline, which of course has now been dumped. The consultation asked whether we should have a single central point for collecting data.

The second aspect was an enhanced duty of care on the waste generator, as per the household waste duty of care in England and Wales. That would avoid the issues that Bob Doris highlighted whereby a householder pays someone to take away the waste but that person is not licensed and then fly tips. That duty would put responsibility back on the householder and would make them liable.

The third aspect was liability on the part of the innocent landowner—the person who has fly-tipping carried out on their land that has nothing to do with them. At present, the landowner can be held responsible for the cost of dealing with and removing such waste, which has always struck me as fundamentally unjust. In that circumstance, we are holding the victim responsible for the crime and making the crime pay. I know that NFU Scotland has been very exercised about that issue for a long time.

The fourth aspect was penalties. Previously, the fixed-penalty notice was just £200, which was not a level that was acting as a deterrent.

I was therefore pleased to see the publication of the bill, which goes some way to addressing those concerns. As Jackie Dunbar referred to, section 10 will bring in an enhanced duty of care, which I welcome. I also welcome the increase in the fixed penalty from £200 to £500, which is not in the bill but is a welcome step. However, I wonder whether £500 is sufficient. I have proposed to the minister a sliding scale of penalties that goes from £500 to £2,000, depending on circumstances. I will look to lodge a stage 2 amendment to the bill that would support that, as it might be a way of funnelling money back into enforcement and clean-up by local authorities.

That leaves two matters outstanding: data collection and, crucially, the issue of liability on innocent landowners, which is a continued injustice. I welcome the engagement that I have had with the minister, which has been constructive, and I was interested to hear what she said about the review of fly-tipping enforcement. We await more details from her on that. I thank her for that engagement. I also thank Keep Scotland Beautiful, NFU Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates for the engagement that I have had with them.

I hope that we can find a positive way forward. There is no political difference across the chamber on addressing littering and fly-tipping, which are scourges on our environment, our economy and our natural beauty that are costing public resources and private owners of land. I hope that we can all work together to find a solution.

Photo of Foysol Choudhury Foysol Choudhury Labour

Figures suggest that, in Scotland, we use more than double the sustainable limit of materials. To tackle the climate crisis, we must tackle overconsumption and create a circular economy where materials are valued and can be cycled around for as long as possible. However, the current Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill does not go far enough to do that and it seems more like a recycling bill than a full circular economy bill. It does not provide a thorough enough framework for action and it does not provide for the aims to be successfully implemented, monitored and evaluated across all areas of a circular economy to ensure that Scotland meets important climate targets.

More emphasis is needed on opportunities for carbon-based consumption reduction targets and ambitious interim targets to be implemented and measured so that we can ensure that the bill meets its purpose in tackling climate change. More attention must also be given to how implementation of the bill will work with third parties, including local businesses and local authorities.

If we have learned anything from the deposit return scheme debacle, it is that the Scottish Government must create thorough, actionable policies that have been thought out in partnership with businesses and local authorities and that do not place significant bureaucratic burdens on small and medium-sized enterprises. Some sectors have already been able to take steps to reuse materials, and the Scottish Government should build on that by helping local businesses to improve their reuse and recycling processes.

The Scottish Government will need to work alongside and properly resource local authorities. Instead, so far, there has been a significant underestimation of the funding that will be needed to enable our local authorities to deliver a circular economy, which has left them with yet another funding crisis that they will have to precariously juggle.

It is important that the bill recognises and prioritises a climate justice approach. Research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts a worrying future, with a rise in the number of migrants who will be displaced because of climate effects. The bill should provide a stable circular economy that supports climate refugees, not an economy that contributes to the problems that cause people to be displaced from their home countries.

We must build a strong, skilled and engaged workforce. The introduction of a circular economy skills passport could result in people being upskilled to work in the reuse and repair sector and could support access to sustainable economic opportunities.

To achieve climate justice through the bill, there must be monitoring of, and accountability for, exported materials to ensure that Scotland does not simply move its waste to other countries and shift the climate burden in its mission to meet its own waste targets.

The bill will not change public behaviour overnight. We need more investment in charity projects that will change behaviour and facilitate the cultural shift that is needed to support a circular economy by helping people to acquire more sustainable lifestyles through awareness of the need to reduce, reuse and repair.

I recently co-sponsored with Maggie Chapman a circular economy showcase fashion show outside the Scottish Parliament. The event was a collaborative initiative between Friends of the Earth Scotland, Plastic Free Communities Scotland, Edinburgh street stitchers, Shrub Coop, Reset Scenery, the Marine Conservation Society, Circular Communities Scotland and the Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council, which I chair—I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests. The showcase demonstrated how we could transform how we view and use materials, and it exposed the potential for a circular economy if the bill provides a sufficient structural and cultural basis for change.

Working towards a circular economy is the right direction to go in, but we cannot have a half-hearted attempt with ill-thought-out implementation mechanisms, weak and hollowed-out targets, poor monitoring of effectiveness and a lack of support for industry and local authorities. As the bill progresses through the Parliament, Scottish Labour is committed to ensuring that it is properly scrutinised and made as robust as possible in order that Scotland’s commitment to climate action is progressed and a more sustainable planet can be built for all.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government has made it clear that the climate emergency is one of the most important issues that we will ever face and that a multidisciplinary approach is required to tackle it. Transforming our economy into a more circular one is a key area in which we can invest in order to respond to the crisis.

I am not a member of the committee that has been looking at the bill, but it is a great honour to speak in the debate, and I will take the opportunity to mention some local initiatives.

As we debate the general principles of the bill, the key message is that the bill will enable Scotland to increase reuse and recycling rates by introducing a range of measures to discourage a throwaway culture. We have heard the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” since the 1970s, and that, in essence, is what a circular economy is. Resource extraction is reduced by promoting the reuse of materials and products. In turn, anything that must be discarded should be recycled, so that the most value can be taken from any waste products.

We must move away from the current model of a linear economy in which we take resources from the ground, air and water, make them into products and structures and then dispose of them. By transitioning away from that type of economy to a circular model, we will remain on track to meet the commitments in our climate change plan, which envisages that, by 2045, Scotland will have a focus on responsible production, responsible consumption and an ability to maximise the value from waste in energy.

Looking at our track record, we can see that we have done well. In 2021, more than half of Scotland’s waste was recycled; the amount of waste that is being sent to landfill has dropped by a third over a decade; we have reduced total waste by 15 per cent; and our emissions from the waste management sector have dropped by more than 75 per cent since 1990. Although those figures are encouraging, we must continue those trends and, most important, legislate in a manner that makes sustainable choices easier and more routine for businesses and households alike.

With that in mind, it is vital to remember that the measures that we are looking to introduce will be taken in an intricate and elaborate Scottish, UK, European and global landscape. There are things that this chamber cannot legislate on—reserved issues such as VAT, product standards, product labelling and consumer protection—so we must encourage the UK Government to work towards a circular economy, too. We must also look at this in the international context of, for example, the Covid pandemic, Brexit, the war in Ukraine and the crisis in Gaza.

I have mentioned the fact that encouraging a circular economy would open new markets and stimulate economic opportunities in Scotland. The legislation would support the establishment and growth of green businesses and initiatives. Examples of that include Vegware, which is the only company in the UK to develop, manufacture and distribute a full range of completely compostable food packaging and disposables. Another example is Retronics Ltd, a business in my constituency that I know well and have visited, which recovers, repairs and reuses electrical components. Its work restores the functionality of electronic parts that might otherwise be considered obsolete and inefficient and that would, in the past, have ended up in landfill. I pay tribute to the work that Retronics does in Coatbridge and further afield. Those are examples of initiatives that would not have existed a few decades ago but that are currently growing and promoting transparent and ethical industry standards.

Although I have spoken about global issues in the climate emergency that will affect the whole planet, a huge benefit of the bill is its ability to work on a local level by giving councils increased powers to promote a circular economy, the funding for which is based on the £70 million recycling improvement fund. Those powers include enforcement powers for local authorities to tackle things such as littering from cars and fly-tipping, as well as increased collaboration between the Scottish Government and local authorities in designing national codes of practice for household waste recycling. I agree with what other members have said about fly-tipping and general littering, which are a real blight on my constituency and elsewhere.

As I said, a strength of the bill is the influence that it will have at a local level, in which context I want to talk about Viridor, the recycling, renewable energy and waste management company that has a regional office in Bargeddie, in my constituency. If the minister has not already visited Viridor, I invite her to do so, because it is a very good organisation.

Viridor exemplifies a circular economy in action through its use of combustion chambers to convert waste into usable energy, which is then exported to the national grid to power and heat tens of thousands of homes while saving thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. Organisations such as Viridor actively support the national energy grid by diversifying energy sources and, critically, reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

I have visited Viridor several times since becoming an MSP, and I can attest to the fact that it also sees the importance of community engagement and often gives back to the community through initiatives such as educational awareness programmes in schools and clubs across the country. Those initiatives underline the importance of promoting a circular economy and instilling a sense of collective responsibility for our future. Viridor’s mission statement with regard to a circular economy is to lead the way by

“Building a world where nothing goes to waste.”

Viridor is a major employer in my local area, and I thank it for that and for basing itself there.

We all know about the importance of a circular economy. The bill is a way in which we can encourage a circular economy through legislative means. I acknowledge that the issue is a multidisciplinary one and that non-legislative means of transitioning to a circular economy can be encouraged, such as fostering a sense of collective responsibility for waste management and awareness campaigns to ensure that all parts of Scottish society play their part in that transition.

I support the general principles of the bill, thank the committee for its work so far and encourage the chamber to do likewise.

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

We move to winding-up speeches.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

I am grateful for the opportunity to close the debate on behalf of the Scottish Labour Party.

Ultimately, if we are to realise the potential to deliver a circular economy for Scotland, as the bill sets out in its ambitious title, it is essential that the next stages of the process strengthen the bill so that it is capable of delivering on its aims.

If we look at the Government’s failure to deliver on the deposit return scheme, we can see that businesses were let down at a cost of more than £86 million, and they felt that no one was prepared to listen to them. I hope that we will be listening this time. If we look at the Government’s failure to deliver on its rhetoric on a just transition for workers, we can see how workers, such as those at Grangemouth, are being let down. Again, they feel that they are not being listened to.

It is clear to me—as it is, I believe, to many members—that it is one thing for the Government to talk a good game about its green credentials, but quite another when it comes to delivering. The real failure of the deposit return scheme legislation was in the argumentative approach that the Government took to any criticism or concerns that were raised. The Government seems to believe that, if it simply forces legislation through, any unanswered questions will just disappear.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

Does the member acknowledge the views of the Welsh Labour First Minister, who recognised that the UK Government stepped in to block Scotland’s deposit return scheme? The Welsh Government now has exactly the same problems as we had in Scotland: it is trying to align its deposit return scheme with an English scheme that simply does not exist, because the UK Government scrapped it.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

Once we have a change in the UK Westminster Government at some point this year, I hope that we will have one that will want to work with the Government in Scotland. Once we have a change here and a Labour Government in two years, we will certainly have two Governments that will work together.

However, whether it is going to war with the UK Government, refusing to respond to the concerns of small businesses or pulling the plug on the scheme altogether, despite its own scheme administrator saying that an alternative permitted scheme would be viable, the Government often seems to opt for the path of most resistance. I urge the Government not to make the same mistakes with this bill. It should recognise that delivering a truly circular economy for Scotland is not only in all our best interests, but that the proposed legislation is likely to be supported by the majority of MSPs if it achieves what it sets out to achieve. If we all worked together on the bill, we could deliver a truly transformative piece of legislation and not just another bill that deals with recycling.

Organisations that are supportive of the general principles of the bill, such as Consumer Scotland, Action to Protect Rural Scotland, Friends of the Earth Scotland and many others, have all been clear that the legislation needs to be stronger if it is going to have the desired impact.

Consumer Scotland says that it is important that work does not focus disproportionately on waste management and disposal. In order to achieve the transformational change that is required, action must be prioritised higher up the waste hierarchy and address the problem of overconsumption and unsustainable resource use.

Action to Protect Rural Scotland agrees on that point. As well as calling for the waste hierarchy to be made explicit in the bill, it has suggested further necessary amendments on take-back targets, refillable and reusable packaging, conditionality on public spending and enhanced reporting for companies that receive public funding.

Friends of the Earth Scotland supports the introduction of the bill, but it is clear in its belief that the bill needs to be improved to ensure that it is as robust as it can be, and it calls for the inclusion of mandatory carbon-based consumption reduction targets, among other additions to the bill.

The organisations that are supportive of the bill point to the great work of the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee and urge the Government to carefully consider its recommendations on how to strengthen the bill.

The Finance and Public Administration Committee raised concerns about the financial implications of the bill for local government, which is an issue that I have raised with the minister, given that local government is struggling at the moment. The Government cannot ignore those concerns. Local authority budgets are already overstretched. If the bill is not resourced properly, it simply will not work.

Although we are broadly supportive of the principles of the bill, it is clear that there is much work to be done to ensure that it lives up to the ambitious aims that it sets out in its name.

Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

I thank my colleagues for their contributions to an interesting debate on an issue on which we all agree that action requires to be taken. I also thank the committees that considered the bill in great detail; the witnesses who gave their time to submit evidence on the proposed measures; and, of course, the clerks of the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, who somehow managed to capture our views and get them into a report that we could all agree on.

We have heard many interesting contributions, which have focused on the intentions of the bill and how it will work in practice. As the committee’s report points out, there is a lot that is unsaid, unknown and unexplained in the bill, and I share the committee’s concerns in that area.

We all agree on the principle that legislation is required to assist with the development of a circular economy in Scotland. However, a lot of work needs to be done to the bill before it will be fit for purpose, and I look forward to being involved in the process of improving it.

Many of my colleagues have outlined some of the concerns that the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee had when it considered the bill. I note that, in her response to the committee’s report, the minister outlined her acceptance of many of the recommendations that it made. That is helpful, and I hope that we can work together to improve the bill.

As other colleagues have noted, the committee found it challenging to scrutinise the bill, given that it is a piece of framework legislation, with much of the detail to be added later. That makes us all nervous, as we should not agree to legislation that is unclear. We are not a fill-in-the-blanks-later Parliament—or, at least, we should not be.

As a former councillor and council leader, I have specific concerns about the additional burdens that the bill will place on local authorities, in particular around increased centralised control through targets. I support action on increasing household recycling practices, and I welcome the minister’s comments about removing the potential penalties for local authorities. However, we need to work with local authorities more and to look at ways to reward local authorities that meet their targets.

It is vitally important that the Scottish Government continues to meet COSLA to discuss the proposed measures and how they are to be implemented fully, in agreement, in line with the Verity house agreement.

I have real concerns about the financial burden that the bill will place on our local authorities. I ask the minister what additional funding will be made available to local authorities to assist with implementation and with the additional reporting and recording that will be required as a result of the bill. An increase in the value of recyclate will not cover the cost of that.

I turn to some of the speeches that we have heard today. We heard from John Mason on behalf of the Finance and Public Administration Committee—that was quite a contribution—which has concerns about the lack of certainty, the lack or underestimating of costs and the passing on of costs from Zero Waste Scotland to local authorities. We also heard that the co-design process could and should have taken place up front, that there is a risk that the bill could be “unaffordable”, and that the financial memorandum is “not adequate”. That will always be the case with a framework bill.

We heard from my colleague Maurice Golden, who said that the bill as drafted will not deliver a circular economy. It is a waste and litter bill, with little detail and no guarantee of when—or even if—things will change.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I am listening carefully to what the member is saying. If this is a framework bill, such that the Government can later bring back bits and tack extra things on to it, how can the Parliament adequately scrutinise the finances that are being proposed?

Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

Liam Kerr has hit the nail on the head—we heard that point from the finance committee. The Parliament cannot do that. It cannot see what regulations will come forward and what the costs will be for our local authorities.

Maurice Golden also said that ministers need to be more accountable for missed targets. He raised the point that targets have been missed—I think that it is eight out of the last 12—but no minister has resigned over that. Targets are simply missed, and things carry on as before.

Bob Doris talked about behavioural change—I completely agree with him on that. Perhaps the focus should be on that rather than on legislation.

Murdo Fraser, or Uncle Bulgaria, as he will now be referred to, spoke—

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

I sit on the same committee as Mr Lumsden. For clarity, I say that the committee agreed that legislative change, not just behavioural change, was required. I would not want anyone listening to think that Mr Lumsden did not support legislation, because he clearly did as part of the committee, which agreed unanimously on that.

Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

Perhaps Mr Doris was not listening when I said earlier that legislation was welcome. However, the focus should perhaps be on the behavioural change that even he discussed, because we can have greater impact with that than we can have with the legislation that is before us.

Murdo Fraser spoke of the blight of fly-tipping, about which I think that all of us have received emails. It is a rural and urban problem, not just one or the other. He spoke about the criminals who are making money from that and the need to make it easier for people to legally dispose of the goods that they no longer require.

Sarah Boyack and Graham Simpson raised the point that households could be criminalised for someone else putting the wrong item in their bins.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

To be clear, it is already a crime not to desist from contaminating recycling if one has been issued a notice. The bill does not create a new criminal offence; what it does is give a more proportionate and milder enforcement option for councils, should they wish to use it.

Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

I thank the minister for that, but I think that she has not recognised that people could put out their bins and have the right things in them but might be penalised if somebody else comes along afterwards and contaminates them.

Liam McArthur spoke about the lack of detail and the difficulty in understanding the impact that the bill will make.

Ben Macpherson spoke about reuse and refurbishment, and about the Edinburgh Remakery, which we both visited as part of the committee’s work—perhaps he should have looked for an iron when we were there; he might have got one at a good price. Ben Macpherson also spoke about construction. There is nothing about construction in the bill, and its addition might be welcome because, as Ben Macpherson pointed out, a large amount of the waste that is produced is from that industry.

The legislation could have been a step in the right direction, but there are so many questions around it that a lot of work needs to be done to get it right. As I said at the start of my remarks, still too much is unclear, unknown and unsaid. We fully support the need to move towards a circular economy, but, for that, we need certainty and a clear strategy of how we will get there.

Businesses that are involved in the sector are leading the way. We must listen to them and ensure that we are taking them with us on this journey. Local authorities will be at the forefront of delivering the strategy. Again, we have to ensure that we are working hand in hand with them to achieve the strategy’s goals.

I remain concerned that the Government’s record on the measures that we have discussed is not a good one. We have seen that businesses have been let down and have felt abandoned by the Government. Councils are dismayed at the Government’s decisions and the breaking of the Verity house agreement. We have seen previous schemes in the sector, such as the DRS, fail because of a lack of competence.

That lack of competence is there for us all to see today—the day that the Climate Change Committee published its damning report on Scotland’s progress on reducing its emissions.

The Presiding Officer:

Please conclude, Mr Lumsden.

Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

Chris Stark’s criticism of the Scottish National Party-Green Government was brutal and unprecedented, but thoroughly merited. I hope that this Government’s current record of failed legislation can be changed. Scotland deserves better, and our industries—

The Presiding Officer:

Thank you, Mr Lumsden. I must ask you to conclude.

Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

—who rely on us getting this right expect more.

I look forward to the debate moving forward, and I hope that we can work collaboratively to make the bill fit for purpose.

The Presiding Officer:

Mr Lumsden, I suggest that, in future, when you are asked to conclude, you do so.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I thank members for their contributions—except possibly the last few lines of Mr Lumsden’s speech—and for the constructive, if robust, nature of their speeches. I am pleased that there is consensus across the Parliament on the principles of the bill and on the fact that such measures are necessary for moving towards a circular economy. I am particularly pleased to hear that there is support across the chamber for things such as standardising recycling across Scotland, notwithstanding the special needs of islands and other rural communities.

I remind members that the bill sits in the context of our waste route map, which contains our strategy and wider ambitions in the area.

Photo of Maurice Golden Maurice Golden Conservative

W hat assessment has been done of the financial cost to local authorities of consistent collections?

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I want the member to understand that I am committed to working with COSLA to understand what a standardised code of practice will look like. We must go through that process with COSLA to understand what that will look like, and part of that process will be understanding what funding is required. We will work on that together with COSLA.

Mr Mountain, Sarah Boyack and others reiterated arguments about the framework nature of the bill and raised the concern that it brings a reduced opportunity for scrutiny, including financial scrutiny. As I said in my response to the committee’s report, for each regulation-making power, the Parliament should have

“suitable opportunity to ensure regulations ... are robust and fit for purpose.”

That will be ensured through the procedures that are set out in the bill for scrutiny of secondary legislation. Where the Scottish ministers intend to co-design any provisions, the bill embeds consultation in the process.

The bill achieves the appropriate balance between the importance of developing a more circular economy and the need to provide flexibility to allow ministers—

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

Certainly—I will take one more.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

A key set of recommendations was about using the super-affirmative approach rather than just putting together secondary legislation that gets nodded through. We need constructive dialogue and accountability not only for our committees but for key stakeholders.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

I, too, look forward to constructive dialogue with the member and other members in the chamber on what we may achieve in that direction.

The bill needs to provide, and does provide, the appropriate balance to allow ministers to respond to changing and unforeseen circumstances quickly without the need for further primary legislation every time a change is needed. It also helps to ensure the proper use of parliamentary time. I note that stakeholders including environmental non-governmental organisations, COSLA and business bodies have welcomed the framework nature of the bill.

A number of comments have been made on how the bill will be funded. The route map sets out that there will be a review of funding mechanisms for services in order to ensure modern, efficient and affordable outputs. That review will build on key findings from long-term investment, including the more than £1 billion that was invested through the former strategic waste fund between 2008 and 2022, the recycling improvement fund and the new provisions that are set out in the bill.

John Mason and others referenced the financial memorandum. Since it was published, further awards have been made under the recycling improvement fund, which has now allocated £60.6 million to 25 local authorities. Those awards are already starting the process to help more local authorities align with the existing code of practice. The financial memorandum represents a snapshot in time, and more detail on costs will result from on-going refinement as we work with local authorities and householders to develop the detail.

Regulations that are made under enabling powers will be subject to further consultation, parliamentary scrutiny and impact assessments, including business and regulatory impact assessments and island impact assessments. By necessity, the financial memorandum provides strategy-level cost and benefit data. I am committed to updating the finance and NZET committees as regulations are developed.

Maurice Golden, Sarah Boyack and others argued that the bill focuses on the lower end of the waste hierarchy—particularly on recycling and household waste—but it does not. For example, reducing consumption of materials is a fundamental driver for the circular economy strategy. I suggest that members look at sections 1 and 6 of the bill. Section 1, which is about setting the strategy, mentions reducing the consumption of materials three times. In section 6, which is about setting targets, that is mentioned four times.

Reducing the consumption of materials through an effective waste hierarchy is at the heart of the bill, and the provisions will help to bring that about. Charges for single-use items are included to incentivise the use of reusable items. We have all seen that incentivisation through the charge on plastic bags, which has driven all of us to bring and keep reusable bags for shopping.

Putting restrictions on the destruction of unsold goods is also key to ensuring that goods are used by those who need them. Reuse is a key theme of the route map, including exploring reuse hubs for construction materials.

Some areas that are relevant to tackling overconsumption and taking a system-wide approach—such as VAT, product standards, product labelling and consumer protection—are reserved, but the strategy will focus on devolved matters.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

No. I am sorry, but I need to get through my speech.

Edward Mountain, Sarah Boyack and several other members raised the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020. Please be assured that the bill does not contain any provisions that would trigger the application of that act. It contains no provisions that would prohibit the sale of goods or result in their sale being prohibited if an obligation or condition was not complied with.

Further consideration will need to be given to the internal market act when and where the powers under the bill are exercised. That is in line with the Scottish Government’s overall approach to managing the risks that that act poses to laws passed by the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government engages regularly with the Office for the Internal Market and will continue to do so. Of course, the Scottish Government—like the UK Government—is under no obligation to seek policy advice from the OIM on draft legislation. We have already highlighted the bill to the UK Government and other UK Administrations through the relevant common framework.

Ben Macpherson asked about construction. Following the first use of the reporting provisions to cover food waste and surplus, construction will be another potential candidate for the use of those provisions. Construction is a priority in the route map and, more widely, the built environment is regularly identified by research as an important system—as in, for example, the circularity gap report. I therefore expect construction to be a key sector in the circular economy strategy. Also, I have a soldering iron, so if Ben Macpherson’s problem is electrical, I might be able to help him out.

Monica Lennon raised the issue of reusable nappies. I look forward to visiting North Ayrshire Council with her on Monday 25 March to learn more about its real nappy incentive scheme, and we will shortly publish research that we have commissioned on barriers to the use of reusable nappies.

I note Murdo Fraser’s comments about fly-tipping and share his concern about the need for urgency in tackling fly-tipping and waste crime. I look forward to meeting him again to see whether we can support the intentions and aims of his member’s bill, potentially through amendments to the Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill.

I thank members for their detailed scrutiny of the bill. It has yielded many suggestions, on which I will reflect. I am pleased to say that I will continue to do so with an open mind, and I am grateful to the members who have recognised that I am open minded and welcome their contributions. I have greatly enjoyed the debate, and I look forward to stage 2, when we will consider the amendments, and to working with members from across the chamber to make the bill a success.

The Presiding Officer:

That concludes the debate on the bill at stage 1.

Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I put it on record that I was a councillor at Aberdeen City Council at the start of this parliamentary session. I referred to that in my speech.

The Presiding Officer:

Thank you, Mr Lumsden. Your comments have been recorded.