SCOTTISH ministers are “cynical” that the UK Government will be able to get a deposit return scheme (DRS) up and running by their current deadline, a committee was told.

Circularity minister Lorna Slater was giving evidence to the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee on Tuesday morning, where she told MSPs that there were a number of issues the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had to sort before October 2025.

She said the "onus" is now on Defra to make a success of the scheme after "undermining" Scotland's attempt to bring one in, with the Scottish Government now pausing their plans to fit the UK's timeline. 

The Scottish Government had to delay the live date of its own DRS after the UK Government refused to give an Internal Market Act exemption for glass to be included in the recycling scheme.

READ MORE: LIVE: Court challenge over secret Union polling begins

The UK department now has to get a number of things up and running before the live date for the scheme, such as labeling requirements, the deposit rate, and a body similar to Circularity Scotland, Slater said.

The Scottish Greens minister also told how she believed Westminster “undermining” Scotland’s scheme will cause issues for officials trying to drum up investment and interest from businesses across the UK.

“It is disappointing that Scotland’s DRS is not launching in 2024 but we will continue to work in a spirit of collaboration to realise the economic and environmental benefits a DRS will bring when it launches across the UK,” Slater told the Holyrood committee.

“But let me be clear, the onus is now on Defra to make a success of DRS.”

The National: Deposit Return Scheme

Slater told MSPs that the UK Government will have to lay the regulations for a recycling scheme in the House of Commons, set up a Deposit Management Organisation (DMO), similar to Circularity Scotland (CSL), and one in each of the four UK nations, in order to get the scheme up and running.

She added: “They would then undertake to do not only the work that Circularity Scotland did for Scotland which was bringing in investment, hiring a team, getting the IT infrastructure, starting to build business relationships, getting the governance sorted out, they will have to do all of that.

“It’s very possible that in addition to all of that, they will have to do things like set the deposit level, which CSL didn’t have to do here but the DMO in the UK might have to do that.

“The UK is also much bigger than Scotland and has a much wider variety of businesses.”

​READ MORE: Warning UK cost of living crisis will cause rise in premature deaths

The minister also told the committee that the UK Government’s decision to refuse to allow an IMA exemption, and set out their requirements of a deposit rate and labeling requirements before the Scottish scheme could begin, could cause problems for them in the future.

She also cast doubt on the likelihood of achieving the October 2025 deadline.

“I think that among the challenges that Defra will have is that in undermining Scotland’s scheme, that undermined around £300 million worth of investment overall in Scotland that went into the scheme, specifically the investment that went into Circularity Scotland was therefore lost,” Slater (below) said.

“How are they going to get anybody, any business, how are they going to go back to those businesses, Coca Cola, all the people who invested in Circularity Scotland and say ‘Ok we collapsed that scheme but please put money into our scheme’.

The National:

“So by doing what they have done to Scotland they have undermined their own ability to deliver that, so they’re going to have to somehow put in place and support that DMO to get the investment that’s required.

“I don’t know what steps they would take to do that, but that DMO will then need to get that investment, do the industry engagement to set deposit levels and set up all the exclusions and exemptions, producer support, that we did before they can launch.

“It is their intention to do all of that between the end of next year when that DMO is created and October 2025, I am cynical that that is possible in that timescale but that is their intention.”

​READ MORE: Station Hotel fire Ayr: Two teens arrested in connection with incident

Slater told MSPs that the Scottish Government did not know Defra's timescale in regard to progress on the UK-wide deposit return scheme.

A UK Government spokesperson said: "We continue to work with the Scottish Government, and the other devolved administrations, to develop an approach to making DRSs across the UK interoperable. We will update stakeholders, including the committee, as plans develop.

"The UK Government remains unwavering in its commitment to improving the environment, while also upholding the UK’s internal market.

"The Scottish Government paused its DRS so that it starts at the same time as the UK Government’s scheme. Schemes need to be interoperable across the whole of the UK, to provide a simple and effective system for businesses and consumers."

At the beginning of the session, convener Edward Mountain expressed frustration that UK Government officials had refused to give evidence to the committee regarding the DRS row.

We told how it was the third time Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has refused to appear before a Scottish Parliament committee.