RECYCLING has become the latest fault line in the battle to protect Scottish devolution - but how did we get here?

We exclusively told how the UK Government has been urged to explain the "striking coincidence" of a £20,000 donation from a trade body after changing their position on including glass in deposit return schemes.

It comes amid calls from an anti-corruption organisation, environmental campaigners and the SNP for the UK Government to be more transparent on the impact lobbying has had on their decision-making.

The Sunday National have trawled through government documents to bring you a brief overview of how the DRS became the latest devolution row. 


March 28 2018

UK Government backs the deposit return scheme for the first time.

When Michael Gove was environment secretary back in 2018, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced plans for a deposit return scheme to “crack down on plastic pollution”.

In a release they stated: “To tackle this blight, the government has confirmed it will introduce a deposit return scheme in England for single use drinks containers (whether plastic, glass or metal), subject to consultation later this year.”

September 2018

Scottish Government consultation on deposit return scheme closes.

February 2019

The first consultation on DRS for England, Wales and Northern Ireland launched.

The consultation closed in May.

The National:

February 2019

Scottish Tory MSP Maurice Golden (pictured above) calls for glass to be included.

The North East Scotland MSP tweeted: "If you are going to do something, do it properly – Scotland’s new deposit returns system should include glass".

November 2019

DRS makes it into the Conservative Party manifesto

Under Boris Johnson, the Tories vowed to “introduce a deposit return scheme to incentivise people to recycle plastic and glass” ahead of the 2019 General Election.

March 2021

The second consultation on England, Wales and Northern Ireland DRS launched, closing in June.


March 26 2022

UK states for the first time glass to be excluded

In a summary of responses to the Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging consultation, which would move the cost of dealing with packaging wastes onto the producer rather than the household or local council, the UK Government signalled that glass would not be included in the English or Northern Irish scheme for the first time, according to the Welsh Government.

It states that the way glass is collected and crushed in reverse vending machines would result in “poorer quality glass” than is collected through kerbside collections, increased handling costs, that the machines would need to be emptied more, and health and safety risks.

“The weight of glass and the potential for breakages also poses consumer safety issues in transporting glass bottles to return points,” the document stated.

“Taking these concerns into consideration, England and Northern Ireland will not include glass in their DRS.”

May 12 2022

Trade group donates thousands to the Conservative Party

The Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) made a one-off donation of £20,000 to the Tories. The industry group has been vocal about excluding glass from the DRS scheme, welcomed the block in Scotland, and runs a Wine and Spirits All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), where the chair is Tory MP and chairman of the influential backbench 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady.

You can read our exclusive investigation here. 

May 26 2022

Tory MP raises the impact of lobbying on glass exclusion

Philip Hollobone, Tory MP for Kettering, told the House of Commons that industry lobbyists have made the case that including glass in a DRS scheme “is problematic”.

“However, this case has been made by glass industry lobbyists who have a vested interest in ensuring glass containers are not included in such a scheme,” he added.

Hollobone said one of the arguments was that glass can be dangerous during recycling once it is broken. “This works both ways,” he added. “As it can also be argued that glass poses a greater risk to the public and pet owners when it breaks down in nature rather than in the controlled environment of recycling plants.”


20 January 2023

Wales announces deposit return scheme plans, including glass

While Wales is working with England and Northern Ireland on a joint scheme, a press release announcing plans for a DRS from the Welsh Government said: “The materials captured in the deposit return scheme in Wales will be drinks containers made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, steel, glass, and aluminium.”

20 January 2023

UK Government acknowledges glass inclusion in Scottish and Welsh DRS

In the 30-page UK Government response to the announcement that a deposit return scheme will go ahead, the Westminster government stated that deposit return schemes in Wales and Scotland will include glass, while it will not be included in England and Northern Ireland.

“For information, the materials in scope of the DRS in Scotland are polyethylene terephthalate plastic, steel and aluminium cans, and glass bottles,” the document reads.

The National: FM Humza Yousaf has been trying, with some success, to get the SNP out of the mess he inherited

April 18 2023

First Minister delays DRS in Scotland

During an address to the Scottish Parliament setting out his government’s agenda, Humza Yousaf told MSPs that the DRS in Scotland will be delayed until March 2024. The scheme was initially due to come into force in 2021, but was delayed due to the pandemic, and then August this year, before the FM put a pause on the project.

He said he and Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater had recognised the concerns of small businesses and the “uncertainty” created by the UK Government.

The UK had delayed making its decision whether or not to allow the Scottish Government an exemption to the post-Brexit Internal Market Act to allow the scheme to go ahead.

“We had hoped for that decision this week – but it has not come,” the FM told MSPs.

Thursday May 26 2023

BBC reports Scotland can “pilot” DRS

Despite the UK Government not making any official announcements on their decision over an IMA exemption, BBC Scotland reported that UK ministers were “preparing to announce” their decision on the DRS. The article stated that: “UK ministers are expected to require glass to be excluded from the scheme which was a key part of Scottish proposals.”


May 26 2023

Scottish Government reacts

Circular economy minister Lorna Slater, who is spearheading the policy, accused the UK Government of showing “utter disregard” for devolution after the report suggested conditions will be placed on Scotland’s deposit return scheme.

May 27 2023

UK Government confirms glass exclusion

A day after the move was reported, the UK Government said that there was “insufficient justification” to include glass bottles in the scheme. While it allowed a temporary extension from the IMA, the row over glass being excluded blew up.

In a letter to the First Minister, they said that including glass in the Scottish scheme could create a “permanent divergence” in the market as schemes planned for other parts of the UK do not include this.

The National:

May 31 2023

FM says DRS may be scrapped without UK U-turn

The FM said the Scottish Government is looking at options on how the scheme with the UK’s conditions imposed can progress without damaging Scottish businesses, but if no alternative can be found, the proposals may not continue.

June 1 2023

Welsh First Minister weighs in

Following a meeting with Yousaf, Welsh FM Mark Drakeford said that if the IMA is invoked for the purpose of removing glass from Scotland’s DRS then there would be “very serious questions”.

Drakeford said he is “considering the implications” of the decision for the Welsh Government, who have said they intend to pursue a scheme with glass included.