A SENIOR SNP MSP has been accused of “doing the bidding” of Alister Jack as a row over Scotland’s upcoming deposit return scheme escalates.

The deposit return scheme (DRS), spearheaded by Green minister Lorna Slater, is currently set to begin in August and will see shoppers pay an extra 20p when purchasing drinks in a can or bottle. This deposit will be returned when the empty container is brought back for recycling.

However, the fledgling DRS has faced intense criticism, with brewers threatening to stop supplying Scotland and small businesses saying it could bankrupt them.

Concerns have also been raised about the fact the scheme will go live for all producers and all types of containers on the same day – August 16 – which has also been criticised for being mid-week and mid-Edinburgh Festival.

READ MORE: Alister Jack could block Scotland's deposit return scheme

And on Monday, Slater faced further criticism after it was revealed by the Herald that the Government had not sought a single expert view on the DRS from a country where one is currently operating – instead designing its own from scratch.

As it stands, Scotland is set to become the first country in the world to bring in a DRS while kerbside recycling continues.

From the SNP benches, former rural economy and tourism secretary Fergus Ewing has called on Nicola Sturgeon to step in and pause the scheme for at least 18 months.

“Unless halted now, this scheme, which most businesses believe to be fatally flawed, will damage the reputation of Scotland as a place to do business,” he said at FMQs last week.

Speaking on the BBC on Sunday, Ewing (below) added: “Unfortunately, this scheme has major flaws, fundamental flaws that I don’t think can be fixed or remedied.”

The National: Fergus Ewing

But Green MSPs have spoken out to defend the DRS, accusing Ewing of taking the Tory line.

Ross Greer, an MSP for West Scotland, said: “I thought former government ministers becoming mouthpieces for big business was a Tory thing, but Fergus has always been a trailblazer.

“The bottle deposit return scheme is based on the principle that the polluter ie the manufacturer pays for recycling, not the taxpayer like at present.”

Green MSP Mark Ruskell, his party’s environment spokesperson, said Ewing was “doing the bidding for Viceroy Jack again”.

The reference was to Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, who was labelled a “viceroy” by Labour MSP Paul Sweeney after the blocking of Scotland’s gender reform bill.

The National: Scottish Secretary Alister Jack during a visit to Kilmarnocks 163-year-old Palace Theatre to hear more about the town's plans to restore the building and create a new cultural quarter. Picture date: Thursday January 19, 2023. PA Photo. East Ayrshire

Jack (above) has also called on the Scottish Government to pause the DRS, saying it would be better to create a UK-wide system to maximise environmental benefits and minimise disruption to the drinks industry.

The Tory Secretary said: “The introduction of a deposit return scheme is a challenging and complex piece of work.

“The last thing we want to do is rush into this and cause unnecessary difficulties for businesses in Scotland, particularly when many are still recovering from the effects of the Covid pandemic and are having to deal with increased costs due to the war in Ukraine.

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“It is not too late to think again and, so, I am calling on the Scottish Government to pause its scheme and work with us to design a system that works for the whole UK.

“I think we should be working to create a UK-wide system because that is the best way to maximise environmental benefits, minimise disruption to the drinks industry and ensure choice for consumers.”

Slater said: “We must take bold and ambitious action to tackle the climate emergency. Scotland’s deposit return scheme will be a major part of our efforts to reduce littering, cut emissions, and build a more circular economy when it goes live on August 16 this year.

“Similar schemes are common in other European countries and have been shown to be very effective.

“We understand that this is a big change, especially for smaller businesses, and have already announced changes that directly address issues raised by industry.

“We will continue to listen to the concerns of small producers and will consider if there is any further action we can take to support them ahead of the scheme going live.

“Circularity Scotland is actively engaging with businesses across Scotland to help them prepare for the introduction of the scheme and we would encourage all producers with queries about how the scheme will work to contact them.

“The formal process for excluding the deposit return scheme regulations from the Internal Market Act is well underway. This is the same process we went through to protect Scotland’s ban on many single-use plastic products.

“We expect a decision from the UK Government as soon as possible given that this is what is needed to give industry absolute clarity.”