Coca-Cola and Irn Bru urge next FM to make deposit return ‘top priority’

The British Soft Drinks Association – whose members include AG Barr and PepsiCo – made the call ahead of the new first minister being elected.

Coca-Cola, Irn Bru and Pepsi firms urge Scotland’s next first minister to make deposit return ‘top priority’ Scottish Communications Group

Soft drinks giants including Coca-Cola and the makers of Irn Bru have joined together to urge Scotland’s next first minister to deposit return a “top priority”.

The British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) – whose members include AG Barr, PepsiCo, Britvic Soft Drinks and Coca-Cola among others – called on Scotland’s new leader to “do the right thing” when they come into office.

All three candidates vying to succeed Nicola Sturgeon have raised concerns about the initiative which is spearheaded by Scottish Greens MSP and circular economy minister Lorna Slater.

Scotland’s finance secretary Kate Forbes said some firms feared “economic carnage” if the deposit return scheme (DRS) comes into effect in August as planned.

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Former minister Ash Regan called for the scheme to be paused, while health secretary Humza Yousaf promised he would implement a grace period for smaller firms.

However Roger White, the chief executive of AG Barr – the makers of Irn Bru – warned against delaying the introduction of the scheme.

“Scotland’s DRS delivers for the environment, society and industry and to delay it now would be to the detriment of all those things,” he said.

The scheme will see shoppers charged a 20p deposit when buying drinks in a can or bottle from August 16 – with this money refunded when the empty containers are returned.

Coca-Cola Europacific Partners GB's VP and general manager said it and others had spent the past three years preparing for the launch.iStock

Coca-Cola Europacific Partners GB’s VP and general manager said it and others had spent the past three years preparing for the launch.

“We remain committed to the current timescale, but the Scottish Government’s clear and full support for DRS is critical if the scheme is to launch successfully in August,” said Stephen Moorhouse.

The DRS has attracted fierce criticism from the hospitality sector as well as some producers of alcoholic drinks but environmental campaigners say it will boost recycling and reduce litter.

At the Scottish Greens party conference in Clydebank on Saturday, the minister charged with introducing the DRS pledged to “persist” with the policy and accused Scottish secretary Alister Jack of “doing everything he can” to try to undermine the initiative.

Slater claimed the Tories “lose their ****” at the Scottish Greens being in power at Holyrood.

It comes amid fears Jack may seek to use UK Government legislation passed in the wake of Brexit to block the initiative.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish secretary has called on the Scottish Government to listen to the concerns of businesses, pause their scheme and find solutions that work for the whole of the UK.

“All deposit return schemes must operate as seamlessly as possible so that we can maximise environmental benefits, minimise disruption to the drinks, retail and hospitality industries, and also protect consumers who are facing current cost-of-living challenges.”