Future of deposit return scheme hangs in balance as deadline looms

Humza Yousaf demanded Rishi Sunak remove the conditions on the scheme by Monday.

Future of deposit return scheme hangs in balance as deadline looms Andrew Fox via Getty Images

The deadline for the removal of UK Government conditions on Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) is due to expire on Monday with the scheme potentially being scrapped if ministers do not back down.

Scotland’s First Minister set the timeline in a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday, saying a failure to revoke the conditions would put the scheme in “grave danger”.

Last week, UK ministers approved a partial exemption to the Internal Market Act for the deposit scheme, but stipulated glass cannot be involved north of the border.

Speaking to the PA news agency on Saturday, First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “I struggle to see it going ahead, and therefore the UK Government have a real choice here.

“They either agree to the full exemption, which is of course the regulations passed by the Scottish Parliament, or they’re in danger of sinking this scheme in its entirety.”

The deadline was set to allow for the Scottish Cabinet to discuss a response on Tuesday during its regular weekly meeting and provide an update to Holyrood.

However, the chance of the conditions being revoked seemed unlikely on Sunday, when Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the Prime Minister should not back down.

Asked if the Government should reverse course, Mr Jack said: “No – we’ve given the exclusion. There are four conditions in that exclusion which allow the scheme to work across the United Kingdom.”

If it goes live as planned in March, the deposit return scheme would see a 20p charge placed on drinks containers which would be refunded to consumers upon their return in a bid to increase recycling levels.

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