Scottish trade bodies demands answers over DRS

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Eco-friendly scheme: demand is clear for more time is needed to prepare for DRS (credit: Getty/Peter Blottman Photography)
Eco-friendly scheme: demand is clear for more time is needed to prepare for DRS (credit: Getty/Peter Blottman Photography)

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Trade bodies have demanded clarity over the implementation of the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) after Circularity Scotland announced £22m would be made available to support drinks producers.

Circularity Scotland is administering the DRS, which is set to begin in August​ this year in a bid to cut packaging waste and tackle climate change.

Along with the financial input announcement, the body confirmed upfront charges for drinks producers with lower sales volumes have been removed from the scheme and added there will be improved payment terms for lower sales volumes and a much more simple labelling option for niche products.

However, UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson said: “This late move is symptomatic of the entire DRS process where decision-making has not been timely or understanding of business need.”

Desperate attempt

Thompson continued: “Frankly, with one week to go before registration for producers is set to close, this is a desperate attempt to boost the number of businesses signing up to be involved in the DRS.

“UKHospitality Scotland members have been reporting suppliers are highlighting a number of drinks brands and products that will not be available in Scotland after 16 August. This is bad news for those producers and our businesses who will not be able to offer the same range of drinks to customers.

“This also highlights that producers are thinking very carefully about registering with Scotland’s DRS, with its financial costs and liabilities. With hospitality businesses continuing to invest time and money in preparing for DRS, it is critical that Circularity Scotland is transparent on how many producers are currently registered.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) managing director Colin Wilkinson said: “We very much welcome the fact that Circularity Scotland has announced what it says is £22m of cash flow support measures to help Scotland’s brewers, distillers, importers and drinks manufacturers prepare for the introduction of Scotland’s DRS.”

Increased costs for consumers

He continued: “However, we still have serious concerns the scheme currently being proposed will increase costs for the consumer and reduce the amount of choice available. Many key questions remain unanswered and the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity [Lorna Slater], has been unable to tell us how many producers, so far, have signed up for the scheme. The level of producer registration is crucial to the scheme’s success.”

The SLTA also argued the announcement failed to mention a grace period to allow producers and importers to prepare and is vital with “so many unanswered questions”.

Included in those unsolved issues are collection times, storage and security, hybrid hospitality venues where some off-sales transactions take place, definitive exemption criteria for licensed hospitality (closed loop) businesses that provide food takeaway/deliveries and include wine/beer etc.

The Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) welcomed the news on cash flow issues facing businesses but still had questions and said it would continue to push for an 18-month grace period for preparations to be made and added: “The 28 February deadline must be shelved in writing by the Scottish government so businesses across the supply chain still have the confidence to keep trading in Scotland.”

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