The Scottish government has rejected key retailer requirements in the newly announced details of its deposit return scheme (DRS). 

The news has repercussions for retailers throughout the UK, where environment minister Michael Gove suggested the UK-wide scheme should mirror the Scottish system. “I hope and believe that the Scottish government will now put the interests of the United Kingdom ahead of the ideology of separatism,” he responded to the announcement last week.

Scottish environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham told fellow MSPs in Holyrood there would be no major store-size-based exemptions, that it would also include glass and would have a 20p deposit fee. 

Pete Cheema, Scottish Grocers Federation’s (SGF) chief executive, accused the government of “breaking its promise” to retailers. “The refusal to consider exemptions for small stores and the decision to include glass clearly shows that the Scottish government has broken its promise – made in the 2017 programme for government – to take into account the needs of small retailers,” he said.

Dennis Williams’ Premier Broadway Convenience store in Oxgangs is the site of a bottle returns machine trial with the SGF. He told RN: “Retailers have been railroaded. A lot has been left undecided, too – it’s all about how its going to be implemented.

“The handling fee is so important, and we haven’t even talked about how we are going to pay for the machines.”

Describing the impact on stores that are too small for, or cannot afford, a machine, Williams said: “It’s never going to work over the counter.”

However, NFRN national president Mike Mitchelson said the scheme announced was the type they had been campaigning for and welcomed the inclusion of ‘a wide range of materials’ and the decision not to add a small store exemption. He praised the Scottish government for having “listened to our concerns and not included milk containers”.

Important points of the scheme, such as the retailer’s share of each 20p deposit, collections and payment methods, are still to be announced. An Implementation Advisory Group including the ACS, NFRN and SGF has been formed in an attempt to find solutions.

Questioned about the impact on independents, a Scottish government spokesperson told RN: “We recognise consideration must be given to the operation of DRS in smaller retail settings.”

The spokesperson said they would trial different options for small stores and consider exceptions for stores close to other DRS points.

Bottle returns machine manufacturer Tomra confirmed to RN that it has a small machine that can handle the included materials, but no financial details were provided. 

An official rollout of DRS in Scotland is expected in autumn 2020.