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Scotland delays implementation of Deposit Return Scheme

Published:  18 November, 2021

A perfect storm of Covid-19, Brexit and a struggling hospitality sector has delayed the introduction of Scotland's inaugural DRS scheme, according to Scottish Minister Lorna Slater.

The Minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity announced a delay to the scheme this week, which was expected to launch in July 2022.

Slater advised that the scheme would be introduced “as soon as practically possible”.

Nevertheless, the announcement drew severe criticism from The Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN), who accused the Scottish government of “bottling” the roll out of the DRS project.

National president Narinder Randhawa said: “The Scottish government has bottled a decision on DRS today. Lorna Slater announced that she is still working on a timescale for the launch of DRS and will announce a date in due course. This is not very helpful to retailers who need certainty if they are to plan how their businesses will handle the introduction of the scheme.”

The introduction of the UK's first DRS scheme was initially discussed in 2018, when the government published its Resources and Waste Strategy. A key element of this strategy would be the roll out of a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

One of the major goals is to reduce the amount of litter and wastage in the UK. According to the Welcome to GOV.UK website, consumers go through an estimated “14 billion plastic drinks bottles, 9 billion drinks cans and 5 billion glass bottles a year.”

Earlier this year, UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls voiced her concerns about the potential pressures of implementing DRS across the UK, including safety and space concerns, increased business costs and additional red tape.

“We support the principle and aims of a DRS system, and believe that it could be an effective vehicle to improve recycling rates across the UK,” said CEO Kate Nicholls.

“However, such a scheme must not overly burden hospitality businesses, which are in a fragile state following more than a year of punitive restrictions to trading.”

The government has launched its second consultation into a DRS for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Implementation will not occur until late 2024 at the earliest.

Meanwhile, Scotland's hospitality industry is on tenterhooks, concerned that the extension of the vaccine certification programme would spell financial ruin for many businesses.

This week, Scotland’s hospitality trade bodies (NTIA, SBPA, SHG, SLTA, UKH) released the results of a joint survey, highlighting the impossible financial situation that extension of vaccine certification would put the sector in.

A survey of more than 150 business owners and operators reveal the extent of the impact any extension would have on the hospitality sector, which is vital to local economies and the country’s tourism offer.

At the moment, 83.6% of businesses say turnover is down by over 10% on pre-pandemic levels. Yet if vaccine passports were extended to wider hospitality, 76.2% of businesses would not survive with the winter without further Government support, according to the survey’s findings.

In a joint statement, the trade bodies said: “From this survey it is clear to see that Scotland’s hospitality sector is in a precarious situation, making the recovery period all the more important. Four out of five (83.6%) businesses are significantly below pre-pandemic levels and with inflation, debt levels and other costs rising, the sector is facing a very difficult winter ahead.”

The Scottish government has not ruled out the widening of the passport scheme to include bars, pubs and restaurants, if Scotland’s Covid-19 rate climbs significantly.