Alister Jack's claims 'not true', says Lorna Slater amid DRS row

The Scottish circular economy minister insisted the UK Government has all the information it needs to grant an Internal Market Act exemption.

Alister Jack’s claims ‘not true’, says Lorna Slater amid Scotland’s deposit return scheme row PA Media

It is “not true” for the Scottish secretary to claim that assessments for Scotland’s deposit return scheme are yet to be submitted to the UK Government, the minister responsible for the initiative has claimed.

Lorna Slater hit back at Alister Jack after he told MPs he is still awaiting the “proper, grown-up assessments” he had asked for as politicians at Westminster consider if the scheme can be exempted from the UK Internal Market Act.

The Scottish circular economy minister insisted all the information necessary to grant such an exemption has been provided – as she called on the UK Government to “do the right thing” and allow the scheme in Scotland to go ahead.

A decision is needed from Westminster by the end of May, according to Slater, and she told MSPs the assessments have been given to UK ministers and Jack’s Cabinet colleague Michael Gove has confirmed receipt of them in a letter to Scottish Deputy First Minister Shona Robison.

Lorna Slater said the UK Government has all the information it needs to make a decision.PA Media

Slater said “it is not true that these have not been carried out.

“We have conducted a full set of impact assessments at the appropriate point in delivery of the scheme. These are publicly available.

“We have supplied all the required information, and more, to agree an exclusion from the Internal Market Act.”

The Act was brought in after Brexit in a bid to ensure smooth trade across the different nations of the UK. Concerns have been raised that because Scotland’s scheme would come in before similar initiatives in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it could create a trade barrier, hence an exemption is needed.

Jack told MPs on the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee on Monday that he was “yet to see the workings that could let me take a responsible decision one way or the other on this with any confidence”.

Michael Gove has said the UK Government is ‘processing’ the information, according to Lorna Slater. PA Media

But Slater told MSPs on Tuesday that Gove had written to Robison “thanking us for our updated analysis of the impact of the Scottish deposit return scheme”.

The Green MSP said that in his letter, Gove “confirms his Government is currently processing and reviewing that information”.

Slater insisted: “There is no reason for an Internal Market Act exclusion not be granted, we have provided all the information and Mr Gove and his colleagues are now considering that.”

She said the Scottish Government is “committed” to the scheme, which has been heavily criticised by businesses.

She added: “The missing piece of the jigsaw is for the UK Government to provide an exclusion from the Internal Market Act.

“The UK Government now needs to do the right thing and agree an exclusion now.”

Meanwhile, she claimed the question of compensation for businesses should the scheme not go ahead is “hypothetical”.

Scotland’s deposit return scheme will see shoppers charged a 20p deposit when buying drinks in a can or bottle – with the cash returned when empty containers are brought back for recycling.PA Media

Former Scottish Government minister Fergus Ewing, who has been a vocal critic of the scheme from the SNP backbenches, said that as businesses have incurred costs preparing for DRS, “if the scheme fails they must get compensation”.

He told Slater “that principle is simply unchallengeable”.

But the minister told him: “The question of compensation is a purely hypothetical one at this point.

“I am working towards getting this scheme launched and making sure this scheme is a success.”

Further pressed on the issue by the Conservatives, Slater added: “It is a hypothetical question, because the deposit return scheme is continuing ahead.

“All the information required for the granting of an exclusion to the Internal Market Act has been submitted to the UK Government.

“They have everything they need, there is no reason for an exclusion not to be granted.

“I look forward to hearing about that in the next few days and carrying on with the delivery of the deposit return scheme.”

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