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Scottish Government could be allowed to pilot UK-wide deposit return scheme | UK News

Scotland could be allowed to pilot a UK-wide deposit return scheme, Sky News understands.

The Scottish government is seeking an exemption from internal market rules and is currently awaiting a decision from UK ministers amid plans to launch a scheme north of the border next March.

Sky News understands that a letter is expected to be sent to First Minister Humza Yousaf on Friday afternoon that will issue a conditional agreement to permit Scotland to pilot a UK-wide scheme.

The UK government is expected to require glass to be excluded from the scheme, which is a key part of the Scottish proposals.

Other conditions are likely to include standardising the deposit charge, bar codes and labelling across the UK.

The government is also expected to insist on a membership system so that businesses that join anywhere in the UK are automatically signed up across the country.

The Scottish government has been contacted for comment.

The controversial scheme was due to start in August but was pushed back to March 2024 after Mr Yousaf was installed as first minister.

The scheme will see shoppers north of the border pay an extra 20p when purchasing drinks in a can or a bottle, with this deposit then returned when the empty container is brought back for recycling.

Industry figures have argued it will impose potentially fatal costs on their businesses and create a trade barrier between Scotland and the rest of the UK. But environmental campaigners say it will cut carbon emissions and reduce litter.

The Scottish government is seeking an exemption from the UK government for the scheme in Scotland under the Internal Market Act – which regulates trade in the different parts of the UK following Brexit.

The exemption is needed as the scheme in Scotland is due to begin ahead of similar initiatives in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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Lorna Slater, the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, has warned if no exemption is secured by the end of May, the Scottish government will be forced to make a “proactive decision” as to whether its scheme is “viable”.

Ms Slater, Scottish Greens MSP for Lothian, was quizzed on the scheme at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

Although admitting the industry has “invested hundreds of millions of pounds” towards the scheme, she dodged questions over who would be liable for compensation if it fails to come to fruition.

Instead, she told ministers that she was looking forward to a positive decision from the UK government and was “all systems go” to carry on with the launch.

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Rishi Sunak has called on the Scottish government to “reconsider” the plans to help with the cost of living crisis.

Asked about the scheme during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, he said it would “reduce choice and increase prices for consumers”.

Speaking during a visit to Rutherglen in South Lanarkshire on Friday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he wants the scheme to succeed but criticised the two governments.

He said: “We’ve got two governments that are more inclined to find a division point between them than to actually just get together and make this scheme work.”

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