PRIME Minster Rishi Sunak is being urged to directly intervene to ensure Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) can come into force next year.

Groups such as Greenpeace UK, Keep Britain Tidy and the Marine Conservation Society have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, demanding the UK Government grants an exemption for DRS in Scotland under the Internal Market Act – which regulates trade in the different parts of the UK following Brexit.

The exemption is needed as the scheme in Scotland is due to begin in March 2024, ahead of similar initiatives in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scottish circular economy minister Lorna Slater has warned that if no exemption has been secured by the end of May, the Scottish Government will have to make a “proactive decision” as to whether its scheme is “viable”.

The National:

With concerns that the UK Government will not have made a decision in that timeframe, charities and environmental organisations have called on Mr Sunak to act.

The letter, which has also been signed by the Association for the

Protection of Rural Scotland, Friends of the Earth Scotland, WWF Scotland, Keep Scotland Beautiful, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and Keep Wales Tidy, also urges the PM to

include glass bottles in the DRS schemes that are planned for England and Northern Ireland.

The DRS in Scotland was delayed after Humza Yousaf was installed as First Minister. The scheme will see shoppers north of the border charged a 20p deposit every time they buy a drink in a can or a glass or plastic bottle, with that cash given back to them when the empty containers are returned for recycling.

It had been due to come into force in August, but its launch date has now been pushed back to March 2024 amid concerns from businesses about the impact it could have.

In their letter to the Prime Minister, the charities said DRS is “the single most effective policy tool available to reduce litter in our towns and countryside”.

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They told Sunak that businesses in Scotland have “already invested hundreds of millions of pounds” ahead of the scheme being brought in, and they “would be substantially out of pocket if the launch date was changed again”.

The groups said Scotland launching a DRS first could be “actively beneficial for England, Wales and Northern Ireland”, where the initiative is not due to come in until 2025.

But they added: “There remains one key obstacle to a truly UK-wide approach to the litter problem. While Wales and Scotland intend to include glass drinks bottles, as things stand glass is excluded for England and Northern Ireland.

“If this remains the case, it would either undermine the long-term interoperability of the various systems, or cost English businesses more, unnecessarily, when glass is subsequently brought in, as happened in Finland in 2011 and elsewhere.

The letter comes after Slater said securing an exemption from the Internal Market Act by the end of this month is “absolutely essential to the successful delivery of the scheme”.

The Scottish Green MSP said: “This is creating uncertainty and confusion for all the businesses that have worked so hard to prepare for the scheme going live. I urge the UK Government to agree the exclusion by the end of May at the latest.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government paused the scheme until March 2024. It therefore hasn’t been possible yet for us to fully assess the impacts of the exclusion request on cross-UK trade, firms and consumers.”