Humza Yousaf has accused the UK Government of “holding devolution in contempt” after it was reported Scotland’s proposed deposit return scheme (DRS) would be blocked while glass remains part of the flagship recycling programme.
The UK-wide policy, which is due to be introduced in 2025, mirrors the Scottish version, but crucially does not include glass among it is returnable materials.
In Scotland, the proposals did include glass bottles and jars, but that has now reportedly been rejected by the Westminster after it refused to grant an exemption to the Internal Markets Act (IMA)
The FM said it was now up to Holyrood to investigate whether the Scottish edition “remained viable” after details of the block were reported in the national media.
He added plans to unilaterally exclude glass from the programme was a “democratic outrage,” and accused the UK Government of going over Holyrood’s head in “briefing” the press before outlining their proposed amendments.
“The IMA gives complete overreach to the UK Government in areas of devolved competency,” he said.
“Not only does it hold devolution in contempt, it is not good for environment. By excluding glass, you remove 600 million bottles from our streets, from our beaches, and they end up being hazards for children, for pets and others.
“We warned this would happen if we allowed the section 35 order to go unchallenged.
“We are going to have to consider what we do. We will have to speak to people in the industry and Circularity Scotland, there are people who have spent millions in the belief that glass would be included in the scheme.
“What we’ve got, at the 11th hour, frankly, is a unilateral decision by UK Government to try and force our hand.
“We have an existential threat to the scheme. We now have a conditional exemption and we have to speak to the industry to see whether or not the scheme is now viable without glass.
Under the scheme, a 20p deposit would be added to all single-use drinks containers made of PET plastic, metal or glass.
Consumers would get their money back by returning the container to retailers and hospitality premises that sell such single-use products to take away.
Retailers would would accept items over the counter, while larger stores, shopping centres and community hubs would operate automated receiving points known as reverse vending machines (RVMs).
The DRS would have been the first of its kind in the UK but businesses in Scotland have expressed concerns over its rollout.
Industry figures argue it would impose potentially fatal costs on their business and create a trade barrier between England and Scotland, but environmental campaigners say it will cut carbon emissions and reduce litter.
Circular economy minister Lorna Slater, who is responsible for delivering the scheme, said the decision would “undermine” efforts to protect the environment.
“If press reports are accurate, this would be an 11th hour decision which would ride roughshod over the devolution settlement, undermine our efforts to protect our environment and reduce climate emissions,” she said.
“We can see no justification for their report actions, which would undermine their own climate targets.”
“It would mean around 600m bottles that would have been collected by the scheme will not be, despite businesses in Scotland having invested millions of pounds in preparation to include them. If this decision turns out as reported, many of these bottles would unnecessarily end up as broken glass on our streets, our parks and our beaches.”