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DRS Postponement: Too little too late, say small businesses

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes' Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) postponement is too little, too late, for any practical benefit, say small business owners.

Image: Finance Secretary Kate Forbes Credit: Scottish Government Flickr

Visiting Cairngorm Brewery on February 27, Forbes, who is running for the Scottish National Party (SNP) leadership, said the policy was likely to cause “economic carnage” and ruin small businesses when it comes into effect in August.

“The Deposit Return Scheme is an example of a good idea badly executed,” Ms. Forbes said.

Beginning August 16, the Deposit Return Scheme tacks on an extra 20 cents on drink cans, glass bottles, and plastic bottles as a “recycling deposit” when shoppers purchase them. These empties can then be redeemed when the empty container is brought back for recycling.

As Scotland’s proposed DRS stands, a pack of six Tesco Ashbury 500-ml water bottles, currently £1.60, would be priced up to £2.80, hitting low-income earners the hardest.

Small businesses had until the end of February 28 to sign up for the scheme to continue to sell their products in Scotland.

When interviewed, Toll House Spirits founder and director Fiona Walsh called for official clarification.

"Kate Forbes' announcement doesn't help with tomorrow’s deadline that we are still being told is valid,”
Walsh added that the extra admin and work involved added more burdens to her already-suffering business. “The DRS is unnecessarily complicated and should only come into play at the point of consumer purchase,” Walsh said.

Meanwhile, Scottish Secretary Alistair Jack was reported in The Times as saying that a Section 35 order may be issued due to the effects of the DRS on the wider UK market.

Outgoing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently reiterated her support for the scheme’s implementation in August.

Sturgeon insisted the scheme is ready for rollout, despite only 664 out of 4,500 businesses have signed up for it, according to Liberal Democrat Climate Emergency Spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP.

“The Finance Secretary, who presumably signed off these proposals around the Cabinet table, has suggested that if implemented, the DRS could lead to economic carnage,”

“This SNP/Green Government must press pause and take stock if it is to avoid harming businesses, damaging public confidence, and undermining the case for a deposit return scheme,” McArthur said in the Scottish Parliament on February 28.

Image: DRS Scheme example poster Credits: Scottish Government

In an interview with Daily Business, Innis & Gunn founder Dougal Sharp claimed the scheme was unworkable and illegal.

“We have invested huge amounts of money into planning for the scheme, but it’s just not workable and doomed to failure in its current format,” Mr. Sharp said.

“There are just too many changes and unanswered questions, and we cannot take the risk of signing a contract with a separate legal entity like the Scottish Government,” he added.

Mr. Sharp also suggested an alternative for dealing with the littering issue that DRS was designed for: levying a charge on items at the till similar to the scheme for carrier bag charges.

The proceeds could be used to procure more kerbside recycling bins for easier access and a more straightforward way of dealing with this important issue.


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