Deposit return scheme is not fit for purpose - Sue Webber

Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative MSP for the LothiansSue Webber is a Scottish Conservative MSP for the Lothians
Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative MSP for the Lothians
It makes no difference to me who wins the SNP leadership contest because all three candidates threaten to crash the Scottish economy to pursue independence. But in the meantime the drama is a distraction from a seriously bad policy which will affect us all.

The ill-conceived deposit return scheme, the 20p charge on every can, bottle or single-use plastic drinks container is an immediate threat to the economy because it starts August with minimal detail about how it will work.

But businesses already know it will be a disaster and it's quite extraordinary to launch a scheme amidst the cost-of-living crisis which will put the price of a six-pack of lemonade up by £1.20.

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If proof was needed about this administration’s lack of care about Scotland’s economy, this is it, a scheme which remains an utter shambles despite years to prepare, and the Scottish Retail Consortium, the Scottish Hospitality Group and even senior SNP politicians are demanding the minister responsible, Greens co-leader Lorna Slater, calls a halt.

One highly successful online drinks company in Edinburgh contacted me to say they will need to cease trading in Scotland and lay off scores of staff. It is, he said, “an ill-thought-out scheme which will put drinks producers out of business. Lorna Slater bragged about creating 60 jobs, but even in our specific case it is threatening to remove 122 jobs from Scotland and an estimated £10m per year from the economy.”

Another Edinburgh business has been writing to Ms Slater for six months and has yet to receive a reply. He has also drawn a blank from his constituency MSP Ash Regan, who is presumably too busy with her bid to become the next SNP leader to worry about an employer in her patch going bust.

“It is very clear to anyone who digs into the detail that this scheme is not fit for small enterprises, was not constructed with them in mind, and places them in huge jeopardy,” he wrote.

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Six months to go and these businesses don’t know what the true cost will be, yet they must sign up now or face closure, their concerns dismissed by an SNP-Green administration which never misses an opportunity to play to the extremist gallery.

These businesses are not crying wolf, but according to another Green MSP, Mark Ruskell, it is all down to “opportunistic political attacks,” and those nasty Tories undermining confidence in their wonderful scheme.

“They are less concerned about the environment than they are about party politics,” he said, as if that’s how a director decides 120 colleagues should be made redundant.

The tragedy is the businesses all believe in recycling, but they need a workable system, not the dog’s breakfast with which they are blithely expected to cope. “Retrain your staff,” an increasingly haughty Ms Slater told desperately worried business owners this week.

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A recycling scheme can work if properly planned and the only reason for not pausing to fix the problems is a childish race to be the first in the UK. Germany’s scheme was successful because all those involved worked together but the SNP-Green axis prefer imposition to cooperation.

Whoever becomes First Minister needs to intervene before hundreds of people lose their livelihoods and all of us are stung.

Sue Weber is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Lothian

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