The UK Government will have shown an “utter disregard for devolution” if it does not allow glass bottles to be included in Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS), the minister in charge of the initiative has said.
With speculation mounting that Westminster will only allow DRS to go ahead in Scotland if it does not include glass, Scottish circular economy minister Lorna Slater said such a move would “ride roughshod over the devolution settlement” – while environmental campaigners claimed UK politicians would be guilty of “sabotage”.
The UK Government is currently considering if the Scottish DRS can be exempted from the UK Internal Market Act – legislation brought in after Brexit to ensure smooth trade between the four nations of the UK.
Scotland is due to implement DRS in March next year, ahead of the rest of the UK the following year, and the scheme has been seen by some as a possible barrier to trade.
But it has been reported that UK ministers will require glass to be removed from the scheme in Scotland if it is to go ahead.
Noting that ministers at Holyrood have not yet been informed of any decision, Ms Slater accused the Tory UK Government of “treating the Scottish Parliament with contempt”.
She added: “An 11th hour decision from the UK Government to unilaterally remove glass from Scotland’s deposit return scheme… would ride roughshod over the devolution settlement, undermine our efforts to protect our environment and reduce climate emissions.”
Ms Slater, a Scottish Green MSP, said the Scottish Government can “see no justification” for such a move, saying it would “undermine” UK climate targets.
All but six of the 51 deposit return schemes operating elsewhere in the world include glass, the Scottish Government said – adding that forcing Scotland to remove it from its scheme would mean recycling rates for glass bottles remain at an “unacceptable” 63%.
Ms Slater continued: “It would mean around 600 million bottles that would have been collected by the scheme will not be, despite businesses in Scotland having invested millions of pounds in preparation to include them.
“If this decision turns out as reported, many of these bottles would unnecessarily end up as broken glass on our streets, our parks and our beaches.
“We remain committed to the delivery of a successful deposit return scheme, but we would need to fully consider the implications for the successful delivery of the scheme and discuss these with businesses and delivery partners.”
She vowed to give an update to MSPs as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, which has led the campaign to introduce DRS, said removing glass from it would be a “Westminster attempt to put a spanner in the works” of the initiative.
Director Kat Jones said such a move “should send a chill down the spine of anyone hoping for environmental progress through devolution”.
She added: “Removing glass from the Scottish system would leave a costly and dangerous burden on councils, climate and our countryside.
“We remain confident that the Scottish Government can make this work, given the importance of what remains.
“But this would be an attempt at sabotage, nothing more, nothing less.”