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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Wednesday, May 13, 2020


Parliamentary Bureau Motions

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

The next item of business is consideration of two Parliamentary Bureau motions. I call Graeme Dey, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, to move motions S5M-21727 and S5M-21728 on approval of Scottish statutory instruments.

Motions moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Deposit and Return Scheme for Scotland Regulations 2020 [draft] be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Environmental Regulation (Enforcement Measures) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2020 [draft] be approved.—[Graeme Dey]

Annie Wells wants to speak against the motion.


Annie Wells (Glasgow) (Con)

Everyone in the chamber supports a deposit return scheme; there is no dispute that a deposit return scheme can increase recycling rates and protect our environment. The question is timing. Scottish Conservatives support the delay of implementation to July 2022 in light of the Covid-19 outbreak, but we do not think that that goes far enough. Small businesses are struggling more than ever and many of them will not see 2021 despite the vast financial support packages that are being provided by the United Kingdom and Scottish Governments. The business community will be responsible for making DRS work. Now is not the time to force businesses to scrutinise and engage with legislation that will add to their burden.

Willie Rennie (North East Fife) (LD)

I thank Annie Wells for allowing us to put this on the record. She is right: the scheme has cross-party support, but the regulations certainly do not. Nobody knows what the world will look like in six months’ time or even next month, so it is beyond me why we are rushing the regulations now for something that is in two years’ time. Future regulations may be just as ambitious or even more so. We support the measures, but just not now. That is why we will abstain at decision time.

Annie Wells

I totally agree with Willie Rennie that now is not the time. We need the Government to be fully focused on tackling Covid-19. We supported the delay to the climate change plan for that reason, but we cannot see why the climate change plan can be delayed only for the deposit return scheme legislation to be brought forward at this crucial moment. It is not a question of scrapping the work on DRS; the issue is one of timing. The environment would be better served by waiting until the business community can turn its focus towards DRS and make a success of it. The climate crisis needs urgent action, but tackling Covid-19 has to be our top priority.


The Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment (Mairi Gougeon)

I speak in favour of the two instruments. The first is the regulations that will establish an ambitious deposit return scheme for Scotland, covering single-use drinks containers made of polyethylene terephthalate—PET—plastic, glass and metal, and the second is an order giving the Scottish Environment Protection Agency powers to impose civil sanctions in the event that someone commits an offence under those regulations. It has already been highlighted that there is broad consensus across the chamber.

Rhoda Grant (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

We share the concerns that have been expressed in the chamber today that this is not the time. We support the principle, but we feel that retail businesses are under a lot of pressure at the moment. Will the minister ensure that the support that they require is put in place, including looking at a delay to this, because that is what is necessary under the current conditions?

Mairi Gougeon

I will address that point, and the other points that have been raised by members in the chamber, as I develop my comments.

As I said, there is broad agreement across the chamber—and, indeed, around Scotland—that recognises that a well-designed DRS is a great opportunity to create the more circular economy that we want to see in Scotland while reducing our contribution to the global climate emergency and taking harmful litter from our streets, parks and beaches.

Since we laid the draft regulations before Parliament in September, we have listened carefully to stakeholders and made improvements to ensure that we have the best possible DRS for Scotland. I know that some members think that the new go-live date of 1 July 2022 is too late, and that some think that it is too early. Clear evidence from industry, tested through an independent review, identified that as the earliest date that we could be confident would deliver a successful scheme. Although we determined that date before Covid-19, when later faced with the virus we took the view that the extension would also provide the flexibility that industry needs to respond to the pandemic. We will, of course, continue to monitor closely the impact of Covid-19 on Scottish businesses and continue to assess whether any further flexibility is needed.

The minister said that the date was set before the Covid outbreak. Has she consulted since then to assess whether that date is still appropriate?

Mairi Gougeon

I do not know whether Graham Simpson heard the comment that I made directly before he stood up, because I said that we will continue to monitor the situation closely to see whether any further flexibility is needed. I would hope that members across the chamber would agree that doing that is only right, fair and reasonable in these unprecedented circumstances.

Passing these two instruments today will not be the end of the process; it will be simply the beginning of the work to implement an ambitious DRS for Scotland, which will support the circular economy that we want and contribute to the low-emissions world that we need. We look forward to working closely with industry on the next stage of work to deliver Scotland’s DRS while remaining ever mindful of the impact of Covid-19.

The vote on both motions will come at decision time, to which we now turn.