LORNA Slater has declined to say how much compensation will have to be paid out to businesses if the deposit return scheme (DRS) is scrapped, adding that it is “hypothetical”.

The circular economy minister also refuted claims made by the Scottish Tories that the Scottish Government had not sent the UK Government the required documents in their request for an exemption to the Internal Market Act.

Slater, a Scottish Greens MSP, said it was “simply not true” and that Scottish Secretary Alister Jack had “demanded” documentation which is not part of the process.

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It comes after the Scottish Secretary rejected any suggestion that the UK Government would pick up the bill for compensating businesses if an exemption to the Act, which ensures no barriers to trade across the UK post-Brexit, is not granted.

The deadline for the UK Government to sign off on the exemption is looming, and will be finalised by the end of the month.

Previously, First Minister Humza Yousaf had suggested that Westminster would foot the bill for any compensation if businesses tried to recoup their costs.

However, Jack (pictured below) said that “it’s absolutely got nothing to do with the UK Government”.

The National: Alister Jack

He also told MPs on the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee on Monday that he had yet to receive the “proper grown-up assessments” he had asked for from ministers at Holyrood that would allow a decision to be taken on whether DRS should be exempted from the UK Internal Market Act.

However, Slater disputed this during a topical question in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

Scottish Tory deputy leader Meghan Gallacher asked the Greens minister whether the Scottish Government will “compensate businesses if it decides not to proceed with the Deposit Return Scheme”.

Slater said that the “missing piece of the jigsaw is for the UK Government to agree to an exclusion” which had been under discussion for two years.

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Gallacher claimed that the UK Government was “still missing elements” of the application for an exemption and said that “fault with this disastrous scheme lies at the door of this Government”.

However, Slater said that it was “simply not true” that information under the common framework had not been shared with the UK Government, and that Jack had demanded further documentation that was “not part of the process” but was supplied by Scottish ministers anyway.

Later in the session, backbench SNP MSP Fergus Ewing said that the issue of compensation is “simply unchallengeable” as under the law businesses who paid out must be able to recoup any costs.

“The question of compensation is a hypothetical one at this point, I am working towards getting this scheme launched,” Slater replied.

The National: The DRS scheme has been delayed

Scottish Tory MSP Stephen Kerr also pressed the Greens minister on the issue of compensation, and accused Slater of being in “denial” and “acting with recklessness”.

Kerr asked how much would be due to businesses if the UK refuses to grant an exemption, and said she was “duty bound” as a minister to “take all of the considerations in mind”.

“It doesn’t matter how many times the member asks, it is a hypothetical question,” Slater replied.

SNP MSP Claire Adamson described the UK Government’s actions as “anti-democratic posturing” and added that the Internal Market Act was rejected by MSPs.

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Adamson added that the legislation was intended to allow regulatory divergence between devolved administrations and other parts of the UK.

Slater replied: “It is astonishing that the Secretary of State for Scotland is actively working to undermine these aims and how devolution works.

“The UK Government in the shape of DEFRA can choose to ignore that conduct and grant the exemption now, which is in the interests of Scotland and the wider UK.”

The Internal Market Act was brought in after Brexit in a bid to ensure smooth trade across the different nations of the UK.

Scotland’s DRS is due to come in before similar initiatives in England, Wales in Northern Ireland, with concerns reportedly around the creation of a trade barrier.

The FM insisted at the weekend that there was “no reason for the UK government not to grant that exemption” as he accused Westminster of “playing politics with what is the climate emergency”.

Yousaf added: “If the UK government end up pulling the plug on the scheme, because they don’t give the Internal Market Act exemption, then I wouldn’t be surprised at all if companies are asking for compensation.”

Businesses have invested in new labels for bottles and cans which would be required under DRS, with reverse vending machines, where consumers would take empty drinks containers back to, also being installed.