Pause DRS or risk passing point of no return, urges McArthur

23 Feb 2023

Orkney's MSP, Liam McArthur, has reiterated his call on Scottish Ministers to pause the Deposit Return Scheme and commission an independent review to address outstanding concerns of small producers in Orkney and across the country.

Speaking during a debate yesterday, Mr McArthur warned Ministers risk damaging support for DRS itself by pressing on regardless "whatever the cost to businesses and whatever the confusion for consumers". The debate marked one week until the deadline for producers to register ahead of the expected launch of the scheme on 16 August.

Mr McArthur welcomed Circularity Scotland's announcement of £22 million for cashflow support measures to help brewers, distillers, importers and drinks manufacturers to prepare, but believes "too many questions remain unanswered and too much uncertainty hangs over the operation of this scheme". He called on Ministers to pause and gather evidence to pave the way for a successful introduction of the scheme.

Industry experts have described it as "impossible" for DRS to be introduced in August with more than 600 producers voicing concerns in recent weeks. Mr McArthur has hosted two local roundtables over the past year between local stakeholders, Circularity Scotland and ZeroWaste Scotland about how logistical challenges will be overcome in the islands.

Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:

"After weeks of mounting concerns from small producers, industry leaders and parties across parliament it is welcome that Circularity Scotland have come forward with cashflow support. However, fundamental concerns about how this scheme will work in practice remain unanswered.

"Without that essential clarity, Ministers risk inflicting serious damage on small producers and retailers across the country. Indeed, we are nowhere close to getting this scheme right for places like Orkney which pose specific logistical challenges.

"Scottish Ministers appear more concerned with going further and faster than the rest of the UK as an end it itself rather than listening to and addressing the concerns of those at the sharp end. Instead of learning from international best practice, this approach risks undermining the strong support there is for DRS.

"We know that DRS can help reduce waste, emissions and litter and urgency is certainly needed.  But those aims won’t be achieved, and will actually be set back, if a half-baked scheme is introduced. Time is running out but SNP/Green Ministers can still pause, undertake an independent review and set Scotland on the path to securing the benefits DRS can deliver."