Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme could be scrapped this week as constitutional row deepens

Scotland’s flagship drinks recycling scheme could be scrapped as early as this week, after the Scottish Secretary said Rishi Sunak should ignore an ultimatum from Humza Yousaf.

The First Minister said over the weekend he “struggles to see” how the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) can still go ahead if glass bottles are removed, as the UK Government wants.

He has written to the Prime Minister urging him to drop this condition giving him a deadline of responding by the end of Monday, warning that the scheme is now in “grave danger”.

The project, which has already been delayed several times after major concerns were raised by businesses, has become the latest constitutional row between the two governments.

Under the plans, shoppers would pay a 20p deposit when they buy a drink in a can or bottle, with that money refunded to them when the empty containers are returned for recycling.

UK ministers believe the DRS in Scotland should be aligned with others planned in the rest of the country and does not want glass to be included in the English version.

In an interview with the BBC on Sunday, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack was asked if Mr Sunak should drop this condition to ensure the DRS in Scotland could go ahead.

He replied: “No”, arguing that businesses across the UK supported the idea of a single system and that diverging schemes would undermine the integrity of the single market.

He said having aligned schemes across the UK would reduce costs and meant that drinks companies would only have to put a single DRS bar code on their products.

“If I get off the train in Carlisle and buy some recyclable material and [the deposit is] 10p in Carlisle and 20p in Dumfries I double my money. That makes no sense,” he added.

“You have to protect internal markets and not have disruption to the drinks industry. French wine producers have told us they wouldn’t be relabelling just for Scotland for glass. It was too small a market, so they would sell their wine elsewhere.”

The UK Government has granted a request to exempt the DRS from the UK’s Internal Market Act, but only on the condition that glass is excluded.

Asked over the weekend if he would scrap the scheme if this did not change, Mr Yousaf said: “I struggle to see it going ahead, and therefore the UK Government have a real choice here.

“They either agree to the full exemption, which is of course the regulations passed by the Scottish Parliament, or they’re in danger of sinking this scheme in its entirety.

“That wouldn’t be good for the environment, not good of course for businesses… certainly not good for all of us that want to see litter off our streets, off our parks and our beaches.”

Asked if such a decision could come down this week, the First Minister did not rule it out, adding: “I’m hoping the UK Government see sense, I’m hoping that they listen.”

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