The Prime Minister should not cave in to demands to revoke conditions on Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS), the Scottish Secretary has said, as it moves closer to potentially being scrapped.
Scotland’s First Minister wrote to Rishi Sunak on Saturday, demanding that conditions – one of which would see glass containers removed from the scheme – placed on it by UK ministers as part of an exemption to the Internal Market Act be shelved.
Humza Yousaf gave the Prime Minister a deadline of Monday, or risk “grave danger” to the Scottish scheme, later telling the PA news agency he “struggles to see it going ahead” with the conditions imposed.
Asked on the BBC’s Sunday Show if Mr Sunak should acquiesce, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “No.
“We’ve given the exclusion. There are four conditions in that exclusion which allow the scheme to work across the United Kingdom.”
The exemption was required to allow the scheme to run in the absence of others elsewhere in the UK, with other nations expected to set up their own in the coming years.
The most controversial of the conditions would see glass stripped from the scheme in Scotland, something Mr Jack said is a matter of concern to businesses.
“We believe that makes sense, because that’s what industry have written to us and industry have asked us to do,” he said.
In his letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Yousaf cited concerns raised by C&C Group – one of the country’s biggest brewers and the company behind Tennent’s Lager – but, in correspondence he received from the firm, it claims to have been “misrepresented”.
Reading a section of the letter, Mr Jack said: “Please find enclosed the letter we sent to Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s First Minister, setting out our position following last weekend’s UK Internal Market announcement.
“Regrettably, specific passages of this letter were leaked to the media misrepresenting C&C’s position on DRS.
“C&C Group/Tennent’s is actively seeking and supports a UK-wide scheme introduced at the same time across the four UK nations.”
The letter, which has since been seen by the PA news agency, went on to say that the removal of glass would leave the company at a “competitive disadvantage with the rest of the UK” and the firm “cannot therefore support a stand-alone Scottish DRS that excludes glass”.
But with Wales also planning to include glass in its scheme and the government in Northern Ireland not functioning, Mr Jack was asked why the English scheme could not simply mirror those in Scotland and Wales.
“Wales haven’t asked for an exemption – they have consulted on glass but there’s been no exemption request – Northern Ireland aren’t including glass,” he said.
“The UK Internal Market Act came after we left the EU, it’s to protect the single market within the UK.”
He added: “So we listened to concerns of businesses and consumers and we decided the Scottish Government can go ahead with their scheme first as long as it dovetails into the other schemes in the UK.”
On the issue of including glass, the Scottish Secretary said he has spoken to British Glass, which claimed the Scottish scheme will largely be crushing glass to be used as aggregate for roads, but Circularity Scotland – the administrator – disputed that assertion.
A spokesman for the firm told PA the claims are “totally inaccurate”.
“Circularity Scotland has consistently stated that the Scottish Deposit Return Scheme has set a target of 90% for the remelting and reuse of glass from the scheme’s launch, rising to 95% post-launch,” he said.
“Any claims to the contrary are totally inaccurate.
“These claims have seriously jeopardised a £10 million investment in glass recycling planned for Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme.”