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

The British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) – whose members include Coca- Cola, AG Barr, PepsiCo and Britvic Soft Drinks amongst others – issued a statement ahead of Scotland’s new first minister coming into office.

The three candidates all hoping to succeed Nicola Sturgeon have already raised concerns about the initiative, with Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes saying some firms feared “economic carnage” if the deposit return scheme (DRS) comes in in August as planned.

Meanwhile former Scottish Government minister Ash Regan has called for the scheme to be paused, while Health Secretary Humza Yousaf – the third candidate running for the post – has promised he would have a grace period for small firms.

READ MORE: Majority of Scots support introduction of Deposit Return Scheme

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

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

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.

Environmental campaigners say it will boost recycling and reduce litter, but the DRS has come in for fierce criticism from the hospitality sector as well as some producers of alcoholic drinks.

However Stephen Moorhouse, VP and general manager at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners GB, said it and other “responsible producers” had spent the past three years preparing for the launch of the DRS, working with both the Scottish Government and Circularity Scotland, who will run the scheme.

Moorhouse stated: “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.”

Similarly David Pearce, the managing director of fruit juice firm Frobishers, insisted: “The Scottish Government and its new leader need to stay the course and deliver the scheme on time, as promised, this summer.”

READ MORE: If we are to tackle Scotland's litter we need a Deposit Return Scheme

William Watkins, managing director of Welsh spring water firm Radnor Hills, said: “The new first minister must ensure DRS starts in August to boost recycling and reduce littering.

“We’ve come this far. We can’t afford further delays.”

Sarah Baldwin, the chief executive, Purity Soft Drinks, meanwhile stressed it was “committed to the current timescale” for the scheme.

But she stated: “The Scottish Government’s unequivocal support is key if DRS is going to be the success that we all want it to be.”

Carol Robert, chief operating officer for Suntory Beverage and Food in Britain and Ireland, said evidence from similar schemes elsewhere in the world had shown the “transformative impact DRS can have”.

She said having the Scottish scheme come into force in August was a “critical step” towards reducing emissions from the drinks sector and tackling litter.

Paul Graham, the managing director for Britvic Soft Drinks in Britain, said: “DRS is a proven step towards a circular economy and we look forward to Scotland leading the way across the UK in rolling out the scheme this August.”

READ MORE: Kate Forbes 'relaxed' about prospect of minority government

Karen Salters, group director of the SHS Group, which includes Shloer and other soft drinks in its brands, said: “While there are still some issues to resolve with DRS, we hope the Scottish Government sticks to its determination to implement this scheme on schedule later this year.”

Gavin Partington, director general of the BSDA, said: “We wish to congratulate the new first minister in advance and wish them the best of luck in their new role.

“DRS has to be a top priority. To the successful candidate – please focus on ironing out the kinks, maintaining a level playing field and delivering the scheme on time.”

Dr Kat Jones, director of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS) said: “It is extremely encouraging to see so many producers committing to working in a more sustainable way and to supporting Scotland’s imminent deposit return system.”

The APRS championed DRS with its Have You Got the Bottle? campaign, and Dr Jones said delaying the scheme again would be “irresponsible and counterproductive” and would leave those businesses which had prepared for it out of pocket “while condemning the whole country to yet more waste, carbon emissions, and unnecessary costs for Scottish councils”.

The National:

She stated: “As things stand, more than 900 million cans and bottles are wasted in Scotland every year, ending up in landfill, incineration, or littered in our towns and our countryside.

“This is expensive as well as environmentally damaging. And it is also not good for the reputation of drinks producers, whose customers want them to take part in deposit return, just as those same companies already do across so many other European countries.

“We hope that other businesses will follow in publicly voicing their support for deposit return.”