PRIME Minister Rishi Sunak admitted that the drinks industry “raised concerns” about the Scottish Government’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) during a session of the Liaison Committee.

We previously told how concerns were raised on the influence of lobbying from the drinks industry amid the row over the UK’s decision to set certain limitations on Scotland scheme, such as refusing to grant an Internal Market Act exemption for glass and other parts of the scheme.

This led Scottish ministers to delay the scheme - due to begin in August after numerous delays - until October 2025 at the earliest, when the UK-wide scheme is expected to start.

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Sunak was grilled by the Liaison Committee on Tuesday morning on a number of issues from inflation and the cost of living crisis to Ukraine.

As the committee is made up of chairs of various parliamentary select committees, SNP MP Pete Wishart led questioning on the constitution and devolution in his role as chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee.

Sunak also told MPs that there should not be any debate on the use of a Section 35 order to block Scotland’s gender reforms as it was always “envisaged” that the little-known part of the Scotland Act would be used.

On the DRS, Sunak admitted that it was the “drinks industry” that raised issues relating to the inclusion of glass in an exchange with Wishart.

The National:

The Perth and North Perthshire MP asked Sunak if his Government was “saving Scotland from itself” during the conversation.

The PM said “no”, before Wishart added: “Is it your job now to be the corrective feature when it comes to devolutional issues that you don’t like?”

The PM replied: “No actually, I mean, DRS actually the drinks industry raised concerns about the Scottish Government's deposit return scheme differing on the rest of the plans for the UK.”

Wishart interjected, adding: “Your job is to do that on their behalf?”

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The PM continued: “Now it's because they had an interaction with UK interests that the UK Government was requested for the UK IM [Internal Market Act] exclusion, and actually, there was an exclusion given on narrow terms and the decision to not proceed was a decision that was made by the Scottish Government.”

Wishart put to the PM that it appears as if issues judged to be of the English national interest are therefore judged to be in the UK’s interest, and that surely “all four nations should be equal” in how the issues are approached.

“Well, as I said, the operation of the scheme had an impact on UK-wide interests and that's why UK IM exclusion was sought, granted on a narrow basis, which would allow the scheme to proceed in a particular way.

“It was a decision I think of the Scottish Government ultimately not to proceed with it…”

The National:

Wishart interrupted: “Because you made it impossible for them…”

“That's not right, actually,” the PM said, “I think the chief executive of Circularity Scotland was categorical that the scheme remains viable on that basis and many successful schemes run without glass.

“So it was the Scottish Government that decided not to proceed, that's a decision that you know they can explain.”

Earlier, Wishart pointed out that the relationship between the Scottish and UK Governments has “never been so poor” and it is characterised by “mistrust, suspicion and antagonism”.

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Asked what he is doing to try and improve the situation, the PM said: “I think it's important to try and have a constructive relationship with all the devolved governments in the United Kingdom.

“Clearly, we're not going to agree on everything.”

Wishart added that Westminster routinely ignores Holyrood's repeated rejections of Legislative Consent Memorandums regarding UK Government legislation and that they chose to use the “nuclear option” using a Section 35 order to block Scotland’s gender reforms from becoming law.

On Section 35, the PM said that it was “reasonable” for Alister Jack to interfere and block Holyrood legislation.

The National:

“Yes, it’s the first time it's been used, but it was always envisaged that it might be used, including I think, by the SNP at the time,” the PM said.

“So I don't think people can debate the principle of being used because it's something that was supported at the time.

“And obviously, it's subject to a legal proceeding now, so there's a limit to how much we can say.”

We previously told how the UK Government was 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 later emerged that Scottish Tory Maurice Golden accepted hospitality from Heineken before changing his position on including glass, and Scotland Office minister Malcolm Offord's many links to the whisky industry.