Deposit Return Scheme delayed until 2024 after industry pressure

19 April, 2023

Scotland's First Minister, Humza Yousaf, has announced a delay to the Deposit Return Scheme until March 2024.

The news comes after months of lobbying by trade bodies including UKHospitality, Scottish Hospitality Group and the Scottish Beer and Pub Association as well as a campaign by industry activist Blair Bowman.

The DRS, initially due to be launched on 16 August 2023, is designed to improve recycling rates in Scotland by adding a 20p deposit to the cost of every single-use drinks container. This includes containers made from PET plastic, glass, aluminium or steel. But the scheme has faced strong opposition from many in the hospitality sector.

Responding to the news, UKHospitality Scotland Executive Director Leon Thompson said,

“An immediate delay and review of the poorly designed Deposit Return Scheme was UKHospitality Scotland’s most significant request of the new First Minister and I’m delighted he has acted on these calls.

“We urged the First Minister, when he was appointed, to reset and repair the relationship with business and his actions today show that is his intention.

“Not only will the delay to the Deposit Return Scheme avoid inflicting enormous pain and cost onto hospitality businesses this August, it also offers a signal to business that their concerns are being heard and their importance to the Scottish economy recognised.”

While Stephen Montgomery of the Scottish Hospitality Group said,

“The delay in the DRS scheme announced by the First Minister is welcomed, but there is still a lot of work to be done and we would obviously prefer the delay to be extended to allow us to align with UK scheme. Meanwhile SHG will continue to work with Scottish Government and Circularity Scotland to make improvements to its current format.”

Blair Bowman, a Whisky Consultant said,

“While I appreciate the announced delay to the DRS, it falls short of industry demands for alignment with UK-wide DRS and the exclusion of glass from the scheme. This 10-month delay is a temporary sticking plaster solution, not addressing the fundamental issues at hand. If Minister Lorna Slater fails to heed industry concerns and take action, we risk facing the same chaotic situation in March next year. It’s time for real action, not just postponing the problem.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) said,

“We welcome the recognition that more time is needed to get DRS implementation right given the concerns which still remain, and we look forward to further detail being announced on Thursday. This provides some much-needed clarity and gives more time to ensure that all parts of the sector for can be ready for go live."

The First Minister also committed to taking another look at the alcohol and marketing proposals and a review of business rates.

Leon Thompson went on to say:

“Commitments to take a fresh look at the alcohol and marketing proposals and reviewing business rates as part of looking at better support for business are further signs the Scottish Government will be taking business more seriously and are extremely welcome. A wholesale business rates review, in particular, has been a long-standing ask of UKHospitality Scotland, in order to bring the system into the modern age.

“Let’s not forget that the Deposit Return Scheme will return in March next year and the next 10 months need to be used extremely wisely and productively to make it fit-for-purpose. Meaningful engagement with hospitality businesses is essential to get this right and UKHospitality Scotland is eager to work with the Scottish Government on just that.”

Stephen Montgomery added,

“We welcome the First minister statement of working closer with business. We hope he sticks to it particularly with regard to rates. ”

With the spokesman for SPBA agreeing,

“It was also positive to hear the First Minister confirm that the alcohol advertising consultation will be taken back to the drawing board, as this too would have placed a disproportionate burden on Scotland’s pubs and brewers at a time when they are contending with a range of other issues threatening the very viability of their businesses.

“We look forward to working constructively with the First Minister and his ministers, and would urge him to support our members by helping to reduce the growing cost-of-doing business in Scotland, which risks stifling much-needed investment.”

While the Night Time Industries Association Scotland (NTIA) released a statement saying,

“The NTIA welcomes the news that the Scottish Deposit Return Scheme has been delayed until March 2024, but we need to be clear that the scheme as designed is fundamentally flawed and remains completely unworkable for large parts of our sector. It would also be significantly inflationary and worsen the cost of living pressures being felt across society.

“Scotland’s DRS as currently proposed cannot be fixed by tweaking around the edges, and a total redesign, learning the lessons of schemes elsewhere, is needed. If there is to be a scheme it also must be identical in scope across the UK, launching at the same time UK wide, and it should be much simpler and less expensive to implement.”

“We urge Scottish Government to now engage in meaningful consultation with businesses and commission a full review and redesign from scratch of the deposit return scheme.”

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