KATE Forbes is certainly not mincing her words about the Scottish Government’s deposit return scheme, suggesting it could cause “economic carnage” if it goes ahead as planned.

Perhaps reporters should have asked her about this rather pressing matter last week, instead of focusing on how she would hypothetically have voted a decade ago about an issue that is now settled.

With Forbes currently the frontrunner in the SNP leadership race, her position on the scheme – that it should not be implemented as planned in August – might provide reassurance to the drinks companies that are unhappy about it. But they do not have the option of waiting to see what the new FM does regarding the scheme. As it stands, they must register for it by tonight.

READ MORE: 'Disgraceful' Labour peer urges Tories to use Section 35 to block deposit scheme

Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater wants firms to sign up now, and get answers to their questions later, saying only that she is “actively considering” the grace period for small businesses endorsed by her Cabinet colleague Humza Yousaf.

Practically, Yousaf can’t ignore the growing chorus of concerns about the scheme, which would be the first to be introduced in the UK. Politically, any acceptance that Slater has been pushing through a flawed proposal would risk undermining his relationship with the Greens, which is central to his claim that he is the only candidate who can maintain a unified pro-independence majority at Holyrood.

It increasingly looks like whoever becomes the new first minister will have to deal with headlines about “scrapping” or even “shelving” the deposit return scheme – although only until the rest of the UK catches up. With the suggestion that the UK Government will block it by refusing to provide an opt-out from the UK Internal Market Act, it’s instructive to look at how the candidates are responding to a different block – of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

The National: Humza Yousaf

Yousaf (above) has committed to challenging the UK Government’s use of Section 35 of the Scotland Act to block that bill, suggesting any alternative means “we lay down and allow them to trample over the will of the Scottish Parliament”.

Ash Regan, whose refusal to back the bill prompted her resignation from the Scottish Government, has said she will scrap the reforms.

Forbes has said she will aim to have a “grown-up conversation” with the UK Government about potential amendments to the bill – doubtless safe in the knowledge that Alister Jack has precisely no suggestions for how to do this, despite his bogus claim to be willing to engage with MSPs on finding a mutually acceptable way forward.

The Greens may believe their threat to walk away from the Bute House Agreement unless the Section 35 is challenged will ensure SNP members choose Yousaf, but will that electorate be coerced into backing a symbolic defence of a bill many of them do not even support?

Few would dismiss the downsides of the alternative – minority government – with quite the same insouciant shrug that we’ve seen from Regan, but the Greens may yet have their bluff called.

Forbes hardly seems poised to dial up the rhetoric about the will of Scotland’s Parliament being thwarted over the UK Government blocking a scheme she believes would cause carnage. That might disappoint some committed Yessers, but converting the soft Nos and don’t-knows will involve more “grown-up conversations” and fewer outraged objections.

Working with the UK Government on a shared approach to a deposit return scheme – rather than forcing a Scottish one through now just for the sake of claiming “first!” – would set a new tone.

Critics of Forbes’s (below) media performances last week will doubtless credit her new advisors with the decision to make yesterday’s statements during a visit to a craft brewery, but it’s no surprise to see her setting out a pro-business stall. Yousaf sounded decidedly less so at the weekend when he declared that drinks giants were “the ones who are responsible for the vast amount of the litter we see on our beaches or on our streets”, adding: “We shouldn’t be letting them off the hook.”

The National: Kate Forbes has spoken about the need for the SNP to provide stable and effective government

By saying this, doesn’t he in fact let those who are really responsible for littering off the hook?

The litter is there because selfish people leave it behind. The problem addressed by any deposit return scheme isn’t the production of many cans and bottles, it’s how people dispose of them.

Call me pessimistic, but I’m not convinced the promise of 20p back will be enough to make Scotland’s streets and beaches pristine once deposits can be claimed.

My hope that litter-pickers will be able to cash in has been slightly dented by learning that crushed cans and squashed bottles with illegible barcodes will be worthless.

The people who leave barely-used tents and sleeping bags in some of Scotland’s most beautiful camping spots are not the type to pop their empty beer cans in a bag to take home. The added incentive of a couple of pounds will not change their maddening mindsets, and raging against drinks companies certainly won’t either.

It’s not a good look for the Scottish Government to consistently lash out at anyone who raises legitimate concerns about policy proposals, however well-meaning those proposals may be. An independent Scotland will need to have plenty of grown-up conversations with the UK Government about cross-border issues, so in cases like this – where all nations of the UK have the same broad aim – why not get in the habit of having those conversations now?