A waste management firm have urged the Scottish Government to press ahead with the deposit return scheme despite changes imposed from Westminster.
Biffa have called upon the First Minister to ensure the scheme continues despite the changes or risk “completely undermining [the Scottish Government’s] position as a legislator that can be relied upon”.
In a letter Humza Yousaf, seen by STV News, the firm say they have invested over £65m in property, vehicles and counting equipment based on the assumption the scheme would be delivered.
Chief executive Michael Topham said they made investment on the understanding it would be recovered over the next ten years.
The UK Government has said an exemption to the UK Internal Market Act – which is needed to push ahead with the scheme in March – can only be granted if glass is not included.
Yousaf said the scheme could be scrapped if Rishi Sunak’s government does not agree to remove the conditions.
However, work to mitigate the impact of changes made by the UK Government, which the firm say has been carried out by Circularity Scotland Limited, show the financial impact would be modest.
They have also said that any delay to the scheme beyond March 2024 would undermine the Scottish Government as a legislator and impact upon commitments to green infrastructure projects in the future.
The letter reads: “Whilst the position of the UK Government is no doubt unwelcome for all those committed to delivering the scheme for Scotland in the form originally intended, I strongly believe that the best course of action at this stage is to proceed without further delay, enabling Scotland to deliver this ground-breaking environmental solution as soon as possible and substantially earlier than the rest of the UK.”
It continues: “Any decision to cancel or significantly delay the scheme beyond March 2024 sends a seismic and detrimental signal to all those businesses that are in principle willing to commit resources into helping the Scottish Government deliver on its ambitions, completely undermining its position as a legislator that can be relied upon.
“In my view the ramifications of this will be significant. Not only in terms of the urgent and immediate need for many businesses, who have invested in the scheme in good faith, to protect their financial position, but also in terms of attracting long-term outside investment in Scottish green infrastructure and related schemes in the future.”
Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar said Yousaf’s row with Westminster over the scheme has been used as an “excuse” for his ministers to hide their own failings in delivering the recycling plan.
During a visit to the PK Foods manufacturer in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, on Tuesday, Sarwar said: “The major problem is SNP incompetence, a failure to deliver a scheme that gives confidence to businesses, it will protect jobs.
“Instead, it’s been shambolic from day one. And they are now hunting for an excuse to hide their own failures. I think we’re stuck with two incompetent governments.”
In Holyrood on Tuesday, Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr is set to ask the government’s circular economy minister Lorna Slater whether the scheme will go forward in March 2024.
On Monday, Yousaf said it would be “extremely difficult” to go ahead with DRS plans if glass was not included.
He said: “It’s extremely difficult because not only do you look at whether or not CSL (Circularity Scotland Ltd) are able to get the drawdown of funding, we have to look at what the impact is going to be on Scottish businesses, on their jobs, on their investment, on the price of their product.
“That is all issues that we have to factor in.”