SLTA hits back over DRS claims

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Time needed to answer concerns: Scottish Licensed Trade Association managing director Colin Wilkinson
Time needed to answer concerns: Scottish Licensed Trade Association managing director Colin Wilkinson

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The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) has called for swift action over its fears for the August introduction of the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) because there are still many unanswered questions about its operation and believes small businesses will be disadvantaged.

SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson said: “Yesterday, we were told drinks producers responsible for more than 95% of containers sold in Scotland have signed up for the DRS along with more than 650 small and medium-sized producers.

“Circularity Scotland said producers responsible for more than 2bn recyclable drinks containers had registered for the scheme​.

“However, when you look closely at these figures, just a fraction of firms has registered – 664 out of the 4,000 to 4,500 that was anticipated. It’s a very low figure and it reaffirms our concerns that this DRS is not fit for purpose.”

He added the SLTA does not want the scheme scrapped but asked for it to be paused so concerns of its own and other trade groups​ representing the drinks industry and supply chain can be considered and addressed.

Bogged down

He added the DRS needs to be rethought and amended so smaller businesses are not “bogged down” by bureaucracy.

He continued: “Circular Economy minister Lorna Slater insists she understands our concerns but, quite clearly, she doesn’t. The industry is still recovering from the pandemic and we are all now in one of the worst cost-of-living crises that has been experienced in a generation. Yet customers will be expected to pay 20p up front for each drinks container purchased from retailers.

“Now is simply not the time. Deposit return schemes have been introduced successfully in other countries, but these have been done in stages – not the all-encompassing big hit the Scottish government is trying to achieve.”

Wilkinson also questioned what would happen to the introduction of the DRS when the new First Minister is announced at the end of March because all three candidates have expressed concerns too.

Alarmingly tight deadline

The SLTA managing director welcomed the news the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the scheme’s regulator, has confirmed registration will remain open to enable all producers to sign up in time for the launch of the DRS on 16 August but warned the timescale is “alarmingly tight” when much ambiguity remains.

“Registration for retailers and hospitality operators kicked in [on Wednesday 1 March] yet countless issues remain unresolved – collection times, storage and security, hybrid hospitality venues where some off-sales transactions take place,” Wilkinson said.

“When will we be provided with the definitive exemption criteria for licensed hospitality (closed loop) businesses that provide food takeaway/deliveries and include wine/beer etc? We need answers and we need those answers now.”

He added administrator Circularity Scotland said there will be improved payment terms for lower sales volumes and a simpler labelling option for niche products but no details have been given on these pledges yet.

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