Neil Mackay: Ready for the next disastrous Scottish Government policy?
IT’S almost a year since I conducted a lengthy interview with Lorna Slater, the Green Scottish government minister. At the time she was getting a lot of criticism, as minister for circular economy, over the delay of the much-trumpeted deposit return scheme (DRS). It’ll see customers pay an extra 20p for every bottle or can of drink bought. The money will be returned when the empty container is taken back to the retailer. It’s meant to improve recycling habits.
Slater wasn’t having any criticism, however. The scheme was “happening”, she insisted. “There’ll be some big announcements on that very soon.” Slater maintained that she had to get the “lie of the land” when taking office, and said the fact that the scheme was soon going ahead was “a success of me being in post”.
Well, that was April 2022, and not only has the scheme still failed to materialise, it’s also an utter mess and looks set to hit the public in their pocket, at a time when we could all do without additional expense, especially expense caused by boastful, ambitious, yet out-of-their-depth politicians.
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There’s real concern now about what’s happening with the DRS. The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) met with Slater this week and warned of the coming chaos. The SRC says ministers must produce a clear blueprint on how the scheme will work. Ministers now claim it will finally begin in mid-August. But retailers say they’ve no clarity on how the scheme will operate - even though they must sign up to it by March 1. Failure to sign up prohibits trading.
SRC says the lack of clarity will cause “huge disruption for Scottish shoppers, higher prices and reduced choice”.
“Unless the Scottish government … can deliver a complete operational blueprint by the end of February, covering the key information retailers need to deliver the necessary infrastructure … we do not believe the scheme can launch successfully.”
Without ‘reverse vending’ machines, the system will be effectively inoperable, and there’s a risk retailers will limit the drinks they stock, leaving consumers with bigger bills.
The scheme symbolises the Scottish government’s central dysfunction: it comes up with good and decent ideas, but then trashes them. Policies that better the Scottish environment are great, but they must be workable. You can’t will good policy into being.
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