Scotland DRS delay ‘a wake-up call’ on financial support needed for stores

The scheme was set to be introduced on 16 August

Stores have described the Scottish government’s decision to delay its deposit return scheme (DRS) by nearly 10 months until 1 March 2024 as a ‘wake-up call’.

Despite the Fed recently lobbying for the Scottish government to press ahead with the August 2023 launch date, the delay was backed by Fed deputy vice president and DRS lead Mo Razzaq. He said the delay was ‘the right decision’ because ‘businesses are nowhere near ready due to poor communication from the government.’ 

Announcing the delay on 18 April, Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf said he wanted to ’re-set’ the Scottish government’s relationship with business. He explained: “We will use that additional time to work with businesses, and Circularity Scotland, to address concerns with the scheme and ensure a successful launch next year.”

Later the same day, the minister responsible for the policy met with retailers helping to guide the scheme, including the Fed’s Razzaq. He told Better Retailing: “Many voices in the meeting said the delay may be until March, but the government only has until September to sort out all the problems businesses have and actually get people behind a deposit return scheme. Without this we could be standing exactly where we are today. The government has failed to engage with businesses over DRS and this is the result. The delay should act as a wake-up call that much more work is needed.”

The biggest demand from retailers is for grants to support the start of the scheme, similar to those in the Republic of Ireland’s DRS scheme, which is now set to launch before Scotland’s in February 2024 – a time frame a third shorter than Scotland’s beleaguered plans.

Razzaq said financial support for stores should reflect not just the cost of preparing for the scheme, but of protecting those that face significant losses due to the delay. He explained: “The urgent issue is now what happens for those stores that have taken out leases on machines to start from this August. They face thousands of pounds in payments before the scheme launches unless finance companies understand and accept the need for a delay to the start of payments. The same is true for stores that have already cleared space ready for machines or storage.”

“We’ll be putting it to Slater that the extra time needs to be spent getting stores ready, and this includes learning from Ireland and introducing a system of grants to help stores to afford the changes they need to make in stores.”

The Scottish government blamed the UK government for the delay, claiming it had effectively blocked the scheme under the internal markets act. No explanation was given on how the government intends to overcome the block by March next year.

Better Retailing understands a further meeting between Slater and retailers is scheduled for 20 April, with more details about changes to Scotland’s DRS plans to be revealed.

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