Lorna Slater's deposit return scheme is a 'total farce', not a cunning plan to secure independence – John McLellan
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Like thousands of Edinburgh residents, every fortnight I dutifully plonk the blue box full of jars and bottles outside the front gate for the council’s waste services to collect. It’s worked perfectly well for years, replacing the trek to supermarket bottle banks and makes Edinburgh Council some money. To my knowledge, all our bottles go in the box and every fortnight they are collected. They do not litter the streets, or parks and beaches for that matter.
Yet that has been the nonsensical implication of statements made by Humza Yousaf and his “circular economy” minister Lorna Slater and they sought to whip up fury against the UK Government for its decision to exclude glass from its approval of the calamitous deposit return scheme. This is a system Mr Yousaf was forced to postpone because Greens co-leader Ms Slater had made such a hash of it, and since last Friday’s UK Government announcement, both have been repeating the claim that, according to Mr Yousaf, “600 million bottles won't be removed from our streets, beaches and parks”.
It sounds like a throwaway (yes, I know) soundbite dreamt up by the communications team, because even their own figures don’t stand it up, with Zero Waste Scotland estimating 540 million bottles are used each year. For them to be littering every community would, as SNP MSP Fergus Ewing pointed out in the Scottish Parliament, require every single person to have wilfully discarded over 100 bottles a year. Instead of acknowledging the wild exaggeration after her ministerial statement, Ms Slater instead tried to justify it, when she must have known it was tosh.
Ms Slater’s response descended into technical detail about the quality of “recyclate” with some gobbledygook about the “lossiness” of kerb-level recycling, whatever that means, apparently revolving around a problem created by mixing up jam jars and wine bottles, which is a different argument to saving the beaches from an avalanche of broken glass.
It therefore appears the vast cost to businesses, the threatened closure of some companies, the disruption of the internal UK drinks market, including suppliers refusing to trade in Scotland, and the break-up of the highly successful kerbside collection system is a price Ms Slater is prepared to pay for a better quality of recycled glass. If what she says is true. British Glass, the manufacturer’s trade association, which is very much in favour of recycling, was damning in its verdict, tweeting: “We don’t think the minister understands glass recycling,”
Glass has been identified as a problem in the scheme for some time, and its removal by the UK Government is not a democratic outrage or the picking of a constitutional fight, but a very necessary measure to bring some sense to a scheme characterised by its absence. But maybe that was the cunning plan all along. By making the scheme as impractical and costly as possible, poor Scotland Secretary Alister Jack has been suckered into taking the bait, now condemned as a devolution saboteur and soon we’ll all be screaming for independence.
That would credit Ms Slater with a Machiavellian dexterity few believe she possesses, so instead I’ll rely on the view of Scottish Grocers’ Federation chief Pete Cheema: “It’s been badly dealt with, it’s been badly handled and to be honest it has been a total farce.”