Kate Forbes: SNP leadership candidate says 'huge warning light' deposit return scheme needs reworking to 'avoid job losses'

Kate Forbes has pledged to pause the Scottish government's controversial bottle deposit return scheme if she is elected as first minister.

The finance secretary, who is in the running to replace Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader, said there is a "huge warning light" that the scheme could lead to job losses so needs to be halted, "sense-checked" and reworked if necessary.

Speaking during a visit to Cairngorm Brewery in Aviemore on Monday, Ms Forbes said: "The Deposit Return Scheme is an example of a good idea badly executed.

"If we want a stronger economy, we need to get better at delivering good ideas well."

The DRS is due to begin in August and will see shoppers pay an extra 20p when purchasing drinks in a can or bottle, with this deposit then returned to them when they bring back the empty container for recycling.

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Industry figures have argued it would impose potentially fatal costs on their business and create a trade barrier between England and Scotland, but environmental campaigners say it will cut carbon emissions and reduce litter.

'That is a huge warning light'

Ms Forbes said: "Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and I know that thousands of firms are still struggling to recover from COVID, Brexit and Tory-inflicted inflation.

"Small businesses want to do the right thing, but we only make it harder by introducing overly complex schemes and proposing to ban advertising for key Scottish industries.

"Cairngorm Brewery is a fabulous local business in the national park that takes its responsibilities to the environment seriously. But its director is telling me that costs are really tight, and the DRS is likely to put jobs at risk.

"If that kind of situation is being replicated across other parts of Scotland, and it almost certainly is, that is a huge warning light that parts of the scheme need to be reworked."

'The DRS needs to be paused and sense-checked'

Ms Forbes also highlighted Knoydart Brewery which is based on a remote peninsula near Mallaig within her own constituency.

She said: "You can only get there by ferry, and there is no reverse vending machine at all. To expect people to travel over half an hour by boat to recycle is clearly not workable.

"So what I'm saying is that the implementation of DRS needs to be paused and sense-checked, and that's what I'll do if I'm elected as leader.

"I believe in the principle, but the execution has to work too."

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Ms Forbes' planned intervention comes ahead of Tuesday's deadline for firms to complete the registration process with Circularity Scotland or be excluded from the scheme.

Fellow SNP leadership candidate Ash Regan, who quit the Scottish government in protest over gender reforms, has also pledged to delay the DRS if elected. Meanwhile third contender Humza Yousaf has called for a year's grace period for small firms.