INTENSE pressure has been put on the Scottish Government to pause its planned deposit return scheme (DRS) after more than 550 businesses from up and down the country issued a joint statement calling for action.

The Federation of Small Businesses, Scottish Council for Development and Industry, the Confederation of British Industry Scotland, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, the Scotch Whisky Association, and the Scottish Tourism Alliance are just some of the bodies lending their weight to the call for a pause to the DRS.

As it stands, the scheme – which involves shoppers paying an extra 20p when purchasing drinks in a can or bottle, with the deposit returned when they bring back the empty container for recycling – is set to go live on August 16.

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However, the influential industry bodies and hundreds of Scottish businesses have said in a joint letter that pushing the DRS through in its current form “would be reckless”.

The letter states: “With the deadline for registration having elapsed with fewer than one in five producers registered, we have heard from the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity [Lorna Slater, below] that businesses want DRS to continue. We can tell you businesses the length and breadth of Scotland’s communities do not.

“Instead we believe we need to delay, review and rethink DRS plans, and give businesses more time to prepare and allow them to sign up for a scheme in which they can have confidence will deliver and without taking on unacceptable liability.”

The National: Lorna Slater in Holyrood

A Scottish Government spokesperson has said that producers “responsible for more than 2 billion drinks containers have now signed up with Circularity Scotland” – the body tasked with managing the DRS.

“This means more than 90% of the annual total volume of products are now included in the scheme,” the spokesperson added.

Dr Liz Cameron, director of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “It’s been clear to the business community for some time that operating this poorly designed scheme in its current form is impossible and is adding unnecessary cost pressures on businesses. We are not alone in voicing our concerns – all three candidates for the Scottish National Party leadership contest have expressed their reservations too."

Among the SNP leadership candidates, Ash Regan has said she would scrap the scheme in its current form, while Kate Forbes has said it should be paused. Humza Yousaf pledged an exemption for small businesses for the first year of operation.

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A poll published on Friday found that seven out of 10 Scots support the DRS being introduced.

The Diffly Partnership survey, carried out for TOMRA – a firm which produces reverse vending machines used to return empty bottles – found 72% wanted to see DRS introduced across the UK.

Fewer than a fifth of people are opposed to the initiative, according to the research, with 8% saying they would “somewhat oppose” it while 10% described themselves as being strongly opposed to it.

In contrast, 43% said they strongly supported the introduction of DRS with 27% saying they “somewhat” supported it.

Of the 1080 people who were questioned, 42% said they would use DRS all the time, with 44% saying they would participate in the scheme sometimes, but not all the time. Meanwhile, only 14% said they would never use it.

On Sunday, the Scottish Grocers’ Federation – which has not co-signed Monday’s letter – said that while it is committed to a fit for purpose DRS, the present scheme “fails to provide this”.

In response, a Circularity Scotland spokesperson said: “Circularity Scotland is committed to ensuring the most efficient and easiest possible system for payment of fees, particularly for smaller businesses.

“Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme will have the highest fees of any scheme in the world. The payment terms for all manual return point operators and hospitality venues will be seven days, slightly longer terms are now in place for larger locations with automatic return points.

“Any retailer concerned about any aspect of the scheme should get in touch with Circularity Scotland so we can discuss their particular circumstances and support them.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) goes live on August 16 this year and will make producers responsible for recycling the bottles and cans they put on the market.

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“Similar schemes are common in other European countries and have been shown to be very effective in improving recycling rates and tackling littering.

“Implementing DRS is a big change for businesses, that’s why we are continuing to work with industry, including retailers, to ensure there are pragmatic approaches to implementation.

“Producers responsible for more than 2 billion drinks containers have now signed up with Circularity Scotland. This means more than 90% of the annual total volume of products are now included in the scheme.

“For the producers that have not yet registered, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) will continue to work with Circularity Scotland and producers to support businesses with compliance before the go live date.

“We have always said we will take a pragmatic approach to implementation, to ensure that as many businesses as possible can be part of Scotland’s DRS and can continue to sell in Scotland after the scheme comes into effect.”