MSPs warned of "catastrophic consequences" of the bottle deposit return scheme

MSPs warned of “catastrophic consequences” of the bottle deposit return scheme

Scottish drinks firms could stop selling their products at home as a result of an upcoming take-back scheme.

Hundreds of businesses across the food, drink and hospitality sectors have called on the Scottish Government to pause the introduction of the scheme.

A total of 508 industry leaders had put their names to an open letter addressed to Scottish Greens co-convener Lorna Slater by 5pm on Tuesday.

Slater, the Scottish Government minister responsible for the proposed new system, has been urged to delay the initiative.

The letter to Circular Economy Minister Slater warned of the “imminent catastrophic impact the scheme will have on both businesses and consumers”, as it called for the deposit to be “paused, revised and rewritten”.

Signatories to the letter include representatives from the Scottish Hospitality Group, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association and the Scottish B&B Association, as well as drinks manufacturers and senior figures from Punch Pubs & Co, Crieff Hydro and Virgin Wines.

Blair Bowman, a self-employed whiskey consultant and broker behind the letter, said the number of signatories showed the extent of opposition to the Scottish Government’s plan – which is due to be introduced on August 16, 2023.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Mr Bowman said charges linked to the introduction of the scheme could lead to some smaller drink producers choosing to stop selling in Scotland.

Mr Bowman said: “There will be many producers I think who choose overnight not to sell their produce in Scotland anymore because of the amount of extra paperwork.

“I’ve already had phone calls with producers here who are devastated that they’re actually considering stopping selling their produce in Scotland, their home market, because of this system.”

The letter has been signed by representatives from distillers including Kingsbarns Distillery, Linlithgow Distillery, Orkney Distilling Ltd, Dunnet Bay Distillers Ltd, Dornoch Distillery, North Uist Distillery, Kilchoman Distillery on Islay and Summerhall Distillery Ltd.

Senior brewers at Kelburn Brewery, Innis and Gunn, Arran Brewery, Cromarty Brewing Co, Williams Bros Brewing Co and Highland Brewing Company Ltd have also put their names to it.

Mr Bowman said costs involved in the scheme could mean the extra charge paid by consumers amounts to around 30p per drink in a bottle or can – not just the 20p deposit.

He said: “Most of the producers think it will be 30p or more on the actual cost because there will be extra labeling involved, there will be extra distribution involved, all these extra things will be added to the sale in Scotland, and those costs have to be passed on to someone, which will be the customer.”

With some companies based elsewhere in the UK selling in Scotland also signing the letter, Mr continued. Bowman: “I’ve had so many conversations with companies over the past weekend that are really worried that this could be the last straw. companies, that they just can’t survive this.

“They’ve been hit by Covid, Brexit and energy costs. This is something they don’t need at the moment.

“That is why we are calling for a delay in the launch, so that it can be fully revised to engage with the industry.

“The government keeps putting on this is done for the industry, by the industry. But it’s just not. There wouldn’t be people signing this thing if they didn’t think there was a problem with it.

“Everyone wants to recycle, it’s not like anyone who signed this is against doing better. We’re going to have to make hard lifestyle changes because of the way the world is and Cop27 is on this week and we’re going to have to make adjustments .

“But this is going to make things worse. So much of it just doesn’t make sense.”

John Mayhew, director of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, which runs the Have You Got The Bottle? campaigner promoting a deposit return scheme, said while Scotland’s proposed scheme is “long overdue”, the charges for producers are a “huge disappointment”.

Scottish ministers must insist these are “significantly reduced”, Mayhew said, otherwise “the cost to those selling drinks in cans would be almost 300 times higher than the equivalent in Slovakia, where deposits were introduced earlier this year”.

He added: “We have said all along that the system needs to be made to work for small beverage producers and retailers as well as large ones.

“To set charges so far above what is charged across Europe would be a hammer blow to the small producers who are already facing rising costs, and the big drinks companies and supermarkets behind the scheme operator must know that running it on this basis would be unacceptable .”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland’s deposit return scheme will recycle billions of bottles and cans a year and is an important part of our plans to create a circular economy. It will reduce climate emissions, tackle litter and directly dealing with the public’s concern about the impact of plastic and other waste on our environment.

“The deposit return system is an example of producer responsibility and rightly puts the cost burden on producers to deal with the bottles and cans they put on the market at the end of their useful lives. Similar systems have already proven successful in many European countries and we are confident that ours will produce similar results.

“In line with the polluter pays principle, and like similar schemes around the world, Scotland’s deposit return scheme is delivered by industry. The scheme administrator, Circularity Scotland, is an industry-led body representing drinks manufacturers, retailers and trade bodies.

“They are responsible for running the scheme and for setting producer charges. The Scottish Government is working with Circularity Scotland and industry representatives to understand and work through any issues that arise when the scheme is implemented.

“Last week, for example, we issued new guidance on the point-of-return exemption process following engagement and feedback from businesses, which will make the system more effective. We will continue to work in this way with industry as we move towards the August launch date 2023.”

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