Lorna Slater: Scotland has turned promises into action on single-use plastics

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Scotland has become the first part of the UK to ban some of the ‘most problematic’ single use plastic items (Ben Birchall/PA)
Scotland has become the first part of the UK to ban some of the ‘most problematic’ single use plastic items (Ben Birchall/PA)

A ban on single-use plastics shows Scotland is turning “promises into action” on the environment, a Scottish Government minister said.

Lorna Slater, the circular economy minister, spoke out as Scotland became the first part of the UK to regulate against what some have described as being the “most problematic single use plastic items”.

The legislation, which was passed by the Scottish Parliament during the Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow means that, from June 1, it is an offence for businesses to provide items such as plastic cutlery, plates and stirrers.

About 700 million such items are currently used every year in Scotland, but now businesses who breach the new regulations could face a fine of up to £5,000.

Lorna Slater said the Scottish Government is ‘turning our promises into action’ with the new regulations. (Jane Barlow/PA)
Lorna Slater said the Scottish Government is ‘turning our promises into action’ with the new regulations. (Jane Barlow/PA)

The Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 have come into force following a six-month grace period, in which Zero Waste Scotland worked to raise awareness of the changes and help businesses prepare for them.

And while items such as plastic cutlery, plates, beverage stirrers, balloon sticks; polystyrene food containers and cups are all covered by the ban, there is an exemption for single-use plastic straws, to make sure that those who need them for independent living or medical purposes can still access them.

Speaking about the change, Ms Slater said: “By banning some of the most problematic single-use plastic items in Scotland, we are turning our promises into action.

“Every year, hundreds of millions of single-use plastic are wasted, with many of them littering our beaches, waters and parks.

It’s great to see Scotland leading the way on addressing single-use problem plastics

Lang Banks, WWF Scotland director

“This ban will encourage businesses to make the switch to reusable alternatives, helping to reduce litter and cut emissions.”

However, the ban will only initially apply to products that have either been manufactured in or directly imported into Scotland.

That is because exemptions needed to UK-wide legislation have not been able to be put into place to make the new regulations “fully effective”.

And Ms Slater hit out at the UK Government over the matter.

She insisted: “Protecting Scotland’s environment is a devolved matter and key decisions like this one should be ours to make.

“It was wholly unacceptable that it could have been effectively vetoed by the UK Government under their UK Internal Market Act, which it imposed on the rest of the UK, despite no devolved legislature giving consent to it.

“The Scottish Government pressed repeatedly for, and finally secured, an exclusion from the Act for our ban. While we are frustrated that the exclusion will not be in force by June 1, it will follow soon after, meaning this important ban will be fully effective across Scotland.

“Regardless of the delay in the exclusion, we’d encourage everyone to ditch these harmful items now.”

Meanwhile, environmental campaigners encouraged other nations to follow the Scottish Government’s example.

WWF Scotland director, Lang Banks, said: “It’s great to see Scotland leading the way on addressing single-use problem plastics.

“At every step in its lifecycle, even long after it has been discarded, plastic causes harm to wildlife and contributes to the climate crisis we’re facing today.

“If we’re to stop climate change and eliminate plastic pollution from our oceans, we need to rapidly phase out unnecessary single-use plastics.

“I hope other nations will follow Scotland’s example.”

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