Scottish Government announces adjustments to Deposit Return Scheme

Scottish Government announces adjustments to Deposit Return Scheme

FM Humza Yousaf and Lorna Slater at a DRS stakeholder meeting (20 April 2023)

The Scottish Government has announced that the deposit return scheme (DRS) is set to undergo changes to support small businesses and craft drinks producers.

The Circular Economy Minister, Lorna Slater, announced the adjustments, which include exclusions for drinks containers under 100ml, products selling fewer than 5,000 units per year, and hospitality premises selling most of their drinks for on-site consumption.

The online application process for retailer exemptions has also been simplified. These changes aim to make the DRS more manageable for small businesses while maintaining its environmental benefits.

Ms Slater urged the UK government to exclude the scheme from the Internal Market Act to avoid confusion and uncertainty for businesses.

The Federation of Small Business (FSB) Scotland and the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) shared their concerns and called for a more comprehensive review of the DRS.

Andrew McRae, FSB Scotland policy chair, said: “We’ve seen the Minister take steps in the right direction today — some smaller operators will be pleased to see exemptions for low sales volumes, and for small containers — like whisky miniatures — that are often taken out of Scotland.

Mr McRae acknowledged that some smaller operators would appreciate the exemptions, however, he emphasised the need for a wholesale review of the scheme, addressing the concerns of very small businesses.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, deputy head of the Scottish Retail Consortium, expressed disappointment with the ministerial statement, describing the measures as “underwhelming” and “unlikely to have much effect”. He criticised the changes for potentially adding complexity and not addressing the challenges faced by small retailers.

Mr MacDonald-Russell urged for revisiting unworkable regulations, effective governance, and swift delivery of information to retailers. He concluded that the statement was a “missed opportunity” and that the problems with Scotland’s DRS need to be “dealt with, not deferred”.

The proposed alterations to the deposit return scheme require approval from the Scottish Parliament, with registration for the scheme open until January 12, 2024.

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