The UK government is waiting for the new Scottish First Minister, Humza Yousaf, to decide if he wants to continue with the deposit return scheme (DRS) as it stands, according to Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey.
During a meeting before the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee on 28 March, Coffey explained that while Westminster is considering Scotland's request to exempt the DRS from the Internal Markets Act, there is a "balance to be had".
"The Scottish government has a different policy and I wait to see if the new first minister wishes to continue with the same policy and proposal of that scheme in Scotland. I am pleased that England and Northern Ireland are moving in-step, with Wales as well who want to do extra with glass," Coffey said.
The Scottish DRS is set to launch from August 2023, but Yousaf has previously stated that he plans to exempt smaller retailers. If the UK government denies Scotland's request for an exemption, the DRS rules would only apply to drinks bottled in Scotland, putting Scottish producers at a disadvantage.
Coffey reiterated her support for a UK-wide DRS scheme: "I think there is still an opportunity for a UK-wide scheme...consumers would like a UK-wide scheme and that is still open to the Scottish government if they wish to join that."
However, Coffey acknowledged the cost concerns raised over the DRS in Scotland: "I am conscious of the cost concerns people have raised on the cost and supply of goods in Scotland."
The Scottish government has submitted an application to exempt the DRS from the Internal Markets Act, but Coffey believes there is still an opportunity for a UK-wide scheme.
"I think there is still an opportunity for a UK-wide scheme. We are going through the request made, but there is a balance here in understanding from the new first minister whether or not this is a policy they want to do and whether they want to continue with that request for an exemption from the Internal Markets Act," she said.
Yousaf had hinted at a delay to the DRS in the run-up to his appointment, saying that he would exempt small retailers in the first year of the scheme.
Circular economy minister Lorna Slater, however, said this week that the Scottish DRS has "inspired campaigns around Europe". The Scottish government has also noted that the DRS logistics partner, Biffa, plans to invest £80m in facilities to count, sort and process DRS material.
Yousaf also met with the Scottish Green co-leaders this week, who are strong supporters of the DRS.