Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) faces last-minute changes following Humza Yousaf’s appointment as Scotland’s first minister, leading the Fed to urge him not to delay the August launch date.
Prior to being elected SNP leader last week, Yousaf had described DRS as “important”, but said: “If I’m elected, I will exclude small businesses for the first year of operation of that scheme.”
This would mean small drinks-manufacturers would not need to take part until August 2024. He also pledged those small suppliers who fail or refuse to register under DRS would remain legal to sell – a deviation from current legislation.
In a letter congratulating Yousaf on his new position, Fed national president Jason Birks, wrote: “Our members have spent time and money on ensuring they are prepared for the DRS scheme. We ask that the first minister ensures the scheme is successfully launched by August.”
The Fed’s message follows the head of scheme administrator Circularity Scotland David Harris warning: “Time is not on our side. The sooner decisions are made, and we can deal with certainty and plan accordingly, the better.”
Meanwhile, Lorna Slater, Green Party minister in charge of implementing DRS, described Yousaf’s one-year exemption for small suppliers as “on the table”.
Any changes for suppliers to DRS policy will add to the workload of those tasked with filling the remaining gaps for retailers. Tesco chief executive Ken Murphy criticised these gaps at Retail Week Live last week. He said: “The operational blueprint is incomplete. The long list of questions we’ve been asking for years remain unanswered.”
The concerns from small suppliers around Scotland’s DRS has led to concerns that ranges of niche lines available to stores in Scotland could shrink, with some opting out of supplying the nation altogether.
For instance, Cambridgeshire-based brewer Three Blind Mice has started including ‘Not for sale in Scotland’ on its cans after opting not to pay the £350 per line it claims is needed to register each product with Scotland’s DRS. “I know a lot of other brewers are going to be doing it,” said Three Blind Mice’s director, Alex Bragg.
Despite the deadline for suppliers to register for DRS having passed, Andy Slee, chief executive of the Society of Independent Brewers, claimed only “around 80 small brewers” had registered, and echoed Bragg’s warning, stating: “More and more will choose to stop selling into Scotland.”
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