Deposit Return Scheme vital to clean streets - Lorna Slater
Climate breakdown is the greatest crisis of the 21st century and we are dangerously close to the tipping point. If we fail it won’t matter what we said or who we voted for. We need all parties and politicians to work together, but all too often it is treated like a party-political game.
Take Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme (DRS). At heart it is a simple idea. When we buy a can or a bottle we will pay a deposit of 20p, which we will get back when we return it to one of the thousands of return points which will be set up across Scotland. It’s good for the climate and good for our local green spaces.
With 44,000 plastic bottles discarded on the streets of Scotland every day the need for it is clear. We’ve all walked through the Meadows or Princes Street Gardens and seen plastic bottles discarded in the grass or spilling out the bins and fighting for space among the pigeons.
We can either continue wading through the rubbish, or we can do something about it.
With the DRS we are trying to do something that will not only help clean up our streets but will also help to change our throw away culture and reduce waste.
That is why our parliament overwhelmingly voted for it and why all governments across the UK already accept the need for it.
There are already over 40 deposit return schemes operating across the world. They work well and have hugely increased recycling rates.
Hundreds of millions of pounds have already been invested. My team and I have spent months working with businesses of all sizes to ensure we are ready to roll it out. We have introduced changes to take account of feedback.
Jobs have been created, IT systems have been set up, machines have been ordered and sorting centres are being built. Most importantly, companies have signed up. 90% of cans and bottles on our supermarket shelves have been produced by companies that are already taking part.
Yet, despite this work, and despite the political support it has received, we are at a crossroads, with the scheme having been woefully misrepresented by some figures within the UK government.
There's been no shortage of misinformation, but the current blockage has come as a result of the Internal Market Act, a controversial piece of legislation that Downing Street introduced in the aftermath of Brexit to give itself, in effect, veto powers over areas that are devolved to Scotland.
The weeks ahead will be crucial. If Westminster continues to delay, refuses permission or seeks to dilute the scheme then the precedent and the consequences for our politics would be very serious. It would hugely undermine devolution and the will of our parliament.
However, as bad as they would be, the consequences for our environment would be even worse. That would be unforgivable.
Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity