THE UK Government has demanded Scotland remove glass bottles from its Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) if the initiative is to go ahead, First Minister Humza Yousaf has said.

Yousaf revealed he had received a letter from Westminster late on Friday night “demanding” glass bottles not be included in the environmental initiative.

It comes after he insisted it would be a “democratic outrage” for the UK Government to only allow the DRS to go ahead without glass.

Regulations passed by Holyrood mean glass bottles, as well as plastic bottles and drinks cans, are currently included in the Scottish Government’s proposed scheme.

As the initiative is to come into force in March 2024, ahead of the 2025 start date planned for Deposit Return Schemes in the rest of the UK, an exemption is needed from the UK Internal Market Act – which was brought in by Westminster to ensure smooth trade between the four nations of the UK in the wake of Brexit.

All but six of the 51 Deposit Return Schemes operating elsewhere in the world include glass, the Scottish Government said – adding that forcing Scotland to remove it from its scheme would mean recycling rates for glass bottles remain at an “unacceptable” 63%.

Yousaf tweeted he had only received correspondence from Westminster on Friday night – after the UK Government spent the day briefing the media about their demands. 

The First Minister said: “After spending the day briefing the press, UK Government sent us a letter at 9.45pm tonight.

“The letter demanding we remove glass from DRS, despite the Scottish Parliament voting for regulations which include glass in the scheme.

“That’s your respect agenda for you right there.”

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Deposit Return Schemes planned for England and Northern Ireland do not currently include glass bottles.

In light of the UK Government’s stance, the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) said the “only viable option now” was for a UK-wide initiative to be launched across all four nations in 2025.

Gavin Pennington, of the BSDA, said its members had “long supported the introduction of an industry-led, interoperable DRS run on a not-for-profit basis to help support a circular economy, reducing litter and increasing recycling”.

He stated: “Our members have made significant investments of money, resource and time since 2019 to prepare for the launch of DRS Scotland.

“However, given the level of political uncertainty currently surrounding DRS Scotland, surely the only viable option now is for all stakeholders to commit to launching DRS across the UK on the same timeframe, October 2025.”

In 2019, Scottish Conservative MSP Maurice Golden initially called for glass to be included in Scotland's scheme. 

He said: "Including glass in a deposit system will help to discourage litter and encourage recycling which will create and maintain jobs while helping to tackle climate change." 

However, Golden said on Friday that the SNP and Green's outrage at the UK Government's demands that glass be excluded were merely attempts to "stoke constitutional grievance". 

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A UK government spokesperson said: “The Government remains unwavering in its commitment to improving the environment, while also upholding the UK’s internal market.

“The drinks industry has raised concerns about the Scottish Government’s Deposit Return Scheme differing from plans in the rest of the UK, resulting in the Scottish Government reviewing and pausing their Scheme earlier this year. 

“We have listened to these concerns and that is why we have accepted the Scottish Government’s request for a UK Internal Market (UKIM) exclusion on a temporary and limited basis to ensure the Scottish Government’s scheme aligns with planned schemes for the rest of the UK.

“Deposit Return Schemes need to be consistent across the UK and this is the best way to provide a simple and effective system. A system with the same rules for the whole UK will increase recycling collection rates and reduce litter - as well as minimise disruption to the drinks industry and ensure simplicity for consumers."