DRS may be scrapped next week if UK Government does not back down, Yousaf hints

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Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) could be scrapped as early as next week if the UK Government does not back down, First Minister Humza Yousaf has said.

Mr Yousaf wrote to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday, saying the decision to effectively remove glass containers from the scheme – which is due to go live in March of next year – put it in “grave danger”.

He urged the Prime Minister to walk back the previous decision made by his ministers last week, urging him to respond by Monday, ahead of a Scottish cabinet meeting on Tuesday, where the scheme can be discussed.

Asked if Scottish ministers could opt to scrap the scheme, the First Minister told the PA news agency in his Glasgow Pollok constituency: “I struggle to see it going ahead, and therefore the UK Government have a real choice here.

Rishi Sunak
The letter was sent to the Prime Minister (Carl Court/PA)

“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 added: “I’m hoping the UK Government see sense, I’m hoping that they listen.”

The First Minister urged Westminster to listen to Scottish businesses, pinpointing C&C Group – one of the biggest brewers in the country and the company behind Tennent’s Lager – who said excluding glass from the scheme will endanger jobs.

The SNP has historically been at odds with UK governments given the difference in constitutional stances, with the relationship branching into outright hostility at times in recent years.

But asked if the DRS had descended into a constitutional battle between two entrenched sides, the First Minister said: “I think it’s really unfair to describe it that way, because what we’ve done is play by the rules.”

The Scottish Government, he said, passed the regulations through Holyrood and the DRS falls within the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

“What the UK Government has done is make it a constitutional fight by invoking the Internal Market Act, something they didn’t have to do, but chose to do,” he said.

In his letter, the First Minister wrote: “There are much wider consequences of the decision.

“This UK Government intervention at such a late stage demonstrates a major erosion of the devolution settlement.

“I urge you to revoke the conditions set out in your letter and grant a full exclusion for Scotland’s DRS, to be implemented as per the regulations agreed by the Scottish Parliament in this area of devolved competence.”

The Scotland Office said it would respond to the First Minister’s letter in due course, with a spokeswoman adding: “The Government remains unwavering in its commitment to improving the environment while also upholding the UK’s internal market.

“The drinks industry has raised concerns about the Scottish Government’s DRS differing from plans in the rest of the UK, resulting in the Scottish Government reviewing and pausing their scheme earlier this year.

“We have listened to these concerns and that is why we have accepted the Scottish Government’s request for a UK internal market (UKIM) exclusion on a temporary and limited basis to ensure the Scottish Government’s scheme aligns with planned schemes for the rest of the UK.

“Deposit return schemes need to be consistent across the UK and this is the best way to provide a simple and effective system.

“A system with the same rules for the whole UK will increase recycling collection rates and reduce litter – as well as minimise disruption to the drinks industry and ensure simplicity for consumers.”

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