The Scottish government will press ahead with plans to introduce a deposit return scheme.

Speaking in Holyrood today, leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon, said: “We will design and introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers as an important part of our determination to tackle litter and clean up our streets.”

Through the scheme, shoppers would pay a surcharge when buying drinks and be able to claim it back when return the bottles or cans to a shop.

The Scottish government will work with Zero Waste Scotland to create the system and assess the impact and benefits. It estimates that it could save local authorities between £3m and £6m on clearing litter.

Reacting to the news, the Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) said it was “extremely disappointed”. Kate Salmon, SWA executive director, said: “The Scottish Government has reneged on its previous commitment to wholesalers and other stakeholders that options would be put to the public for consultation before ministers reached a final decision on whether or not to support a deposit return scheme.

“We stand by our view that a deposit return scheme would be impractical and costly for consumers, businesses and local councils.”

The Scottish Grocers Federation called it an “atrocious decision”. Chief executive Pete Cheema said: “If the Scottish government wanted to significantly damage the viability of an independent convenience store industry in Scotland, which provides 42,000 jobs and contributes over £500 million to the economy, then this is an ideal way to do it. This is bad policy making and bad government, there is no evidence to justify this decision.”

James Lowman, ACS chief executive added: “Our view remains that DRS would impose massive unnecessary time and cost burdens on retailers operating from small premises. A small shop exemption is also not the answer as it would just divert customers to larger stores where they could receive returns on their deposits.”

According to a report by Zero Waste Scotland, the introduction of a deposit return scheme will cost more than £40m. However, the figure was disputed by the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS) back in July.

Speaking to Retail Express, James Mackenzie from the APRS said the cost would be much lower and could potentially bring in between £7.1m and £8.7m a year in profit for retailers.

“There’s a cost with anything in business, but the key question is what is the profit? Independent retailers are a net beneficiary in nearly all return schemes,” he said.