A further delay to Scotland’s deposit return scheme would show the world that the Government is “simply not serious about striving for net zero”, environmental campaigners have insisted.
Supporters of the scheme fear that the Scottish Government is preparing to again push back the start date for deposit return.
This, they argued, could also risk progress of the campaigns for a similar scheme to be brought in south of the border.
As it stands, a deposit return system is due to be brought in from July 2022 – with the initiative already delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now campaigners fear that circular economy minister, Lorna Salter, is announce a further hold-up when she updates Holyrood on Wednesday.
With this coming just days after the conclusion of the Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow, campaigners at Have You Got the Bottle told MSPs in a briefing note: “A further delay just after Scotland hosted Cop26 would send out a clear message to the world that, despite all its fine words, the Scottish Government is simply not serious about striving for net zero.”
It has now been more than four years since First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that a deposit return scheme would be introduced in Scotland – with the country the first part of the UK to commit to this.
Under the initiative it is proposed that shoppers will pay an additional 20p charge when buying drinks in cans and bottles, with these fees refunded to them when they return the empty containers for recycling.
But a further delay could breach the SNP’s election manifesto, which pledged to implement “our ambitious deposit return scheme for single use drinks containers next year”, saying this would help increase recycling, reducing littering and assist with meeting climate change targets.
The briefing note added that if the Scottish Government was “unable to stick to its own policy decisions, that would put at risk progress on this issue across the rest of the UK”.
It warned: “If progress is delayed in Scotland that will only embolden efforts to try to stall deposit return indefinitely elsewhere.”
Nina Schrank, a campaigner with Greenpeace UK, demanded: “Nicola Sturgeon rightly said that the Glasgow climate summit didn’t go far enough to protect our planet, so why is her Government choosing to kick this vital environmental scheme even further down the road?”
She added: “It’s shocking to see the Scottish Government once again choosing to delay the long-awaited deposit return scheme until 2023, while continuing to spout fine words about environmental protection.
“This vital manifesto promise, backed by the Scottish Greens and SNP, has yet to be delivered and this new delay is not good enough.
“If Nicola Sturgeon’s Government wants its green credentials to be taken seriously, it needs to start turning words into actions: more delay means plastic pollution continues to devastate people and planet, and her words ring hollow.
“Our planet can’t afford many more broken promises and delays like this.”
Catherine Gemmell, Scotland conservation officer for the Marine Conservation Society – another of the environmental bodies backing the scheme – said: “The sad reality is that our volunteers are still picking up bottle after bottle, and can after can on Scottish beaches.
“After celebrating single-use plastic bans during Cop26, surely the Scottish Government wouldn’t go back on their most substantial circular economy promise the week after the world leaves Glasgow?”
She added: “Our ocean deserves better and we demand that promises are kept, otherwise what hope is there that this Government will deliver anything to meet the climate and ocean emergency?”
A Scottish Government spokesman said ministers “remain fully committed to implementing Scotland’s deposit return scheme, which will be a UK first”.
He added: “Scotland’s scheme will be among the most environmentally ambitious and accessible in Europe, including tens of thousands of return points for plastic, metal and glass containers, as well as pick-ups for online deliveries.
“Industry has made progress, including the establishment of a scheme administrator, Circularity Scotland. This has been done in trying circumstances, with those sectors responsible for delivering the scheme facing unprecedented disruption as a result of the pandemic and Brexit.
“That is why we commissioned an independent review of progress and readiness for the go-live date. The minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity will provide an update to parliament and businesses on Wednesday November 17.”
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