The minister responsible for the deposit return scheme (DRS) has refused to say whether the Scottish Government took legal advice on its decision to delay its rollout by another year.
Lorna Slater said she was not able to answer the question because legal advice is “confidential”.
The circular economy minister was quizzed by Holyrood’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee on Tuesday afternoon over the Government’s decision to delay the DRS again, this time until 2025.
The rollout will now not take place until two years from October at the earliest after Westminster denied a full exemption to the Internal Markets Act (IMA) for the inclusion of glass in the Scottish version of the plans.
Asked by Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr whether the Scottish Government took formal legal advice on pausing the scheme last week, the minister would not say.
“The Scottish Government of course takes many types of advice and has received legal advice on matters relating to DRS on an ongoing basis as appropriate,” she said.
“The member will appreciate that this in the last two weeks have happened very, very quickly in terms of a very short timescale from when that letter was received and reaffirmed on June 5 when I made the announcement to parliament.”
The Green MSP told the committee that legal advice is “confidential by longstanding convention”.
“As far as I know that is a matter I cannot discuss,” she added.
Ailsa Heine, a Scottish Government lawyer who was present at the committee, insisted any decision the government makes is “consistent with legal advice it receives”.
Last week, Slater said the Scottish Government had been left with “no option” but to park the scheme following the rejection from the UK Government.
First Minister Humza Yousaf previously branded the move a “democratic outrage”.
The DRS – managed by Circularity Scotland – was due to be introduced in March next year, a date that was already pushed back from August of 2023 to allow the drinks industry to put measures in place for its rollout.
But Scottish secretary Alister Jack repeatedly said that the inclusion of glass was a condition of Westminster supporting the project.
A partial exemption to the IMA was approved by the UK Government last week, but not one for glass containers.
Slater said it was clear, under those conditions, that the scheme would not be ready to meet the March deadline.
The DRS would introduce a 20p deposit on the price of drinks in cans and bottles which is repaid to the consumer when they are returned to a retailer or reverse vending machine.