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DRS delayed until 2024

Scottish first minister Humza Yousaf has delayed the ‘controversial’ Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) until March 2024.

The Deposit Return Scheme was due to come into effect this August

The Scottish DRS, which was due to come into effect on 16 August 2023, has faced a lot of backlash from ministers of the Scottish parliament (MSPs), as well as trade bodies and producers.

The current proposal of the DRS requires consumers to pay a 20p deposit when buying a drink in a single-use container made from polyethylene terephthalate, glass, steel or aluminium, sized between 50ml and three litres.

After months of vocalising their concerns, members of the Scottish spirits trade have welcomed the news of the delay.

Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) chief executive Mark Kent said: “This is a very welcome announcement by the first minister, who has listened to the concerns voiced by industry on the alcohol marketing consultation and the Deposit Return Scheme.

“More widely, he has signalled a reset with the Scottish business community so the Scotch whisky industry and other sectors can help the Scottish government drive economic growth, creating prosperity and opportunity across the nation.

“Our industry has always supported the goals of the Deposit Return Scheme, but the Scottish DRS as currently devised would hamper the efforts of businesses across the country to reduce waste and bring about a more circular economy.

“The delay until March 2024 and full review in the coming months will enable us to work with government to ensure DRS is aligned with other systems across the UK and to once again look at the exclusion of glass, which the experience of international schemes tells us will help to simplify the scheme, and reduce the cost for businesses and consumers.”

Last month, the UK government said a UK-wide DRS initiative would be its “preference”.

Leon Thompson, executive director, UK Hospitality Scotland, added: “An immediate delay and review of the poorly designed Deposit Return Scheme was UK Hospitality Scotland’s most significant request of the new first minister, and I’m delighted he has acted on these calls.

“We urged the first minister, when he was appointed, to reset and repair the relationship with businesses and his actions today show that is his intention.

“Not only will the delay to the Deposit Return Scheme avoid inflicting enormous pain and cost onto hospitality businesses this August, it also offers a signal to business that their concerns are being heard and their importance to the Scottish economy recognised.”

Alcohol marketing review

Yousaf also announced a review of the proposed ban on alcohol promotion and will consult with businesses.

In November 2022, the Scottish government opened a consultation on whether it should impose further restrictions on alcohol marketing to reduce its appeal to young people.

The proposed crackdown on alcohol advertising in Scotland had been met with outrage by spirits brands in the country, who said it will not meet its aims, and will damage the nation’s drinks and tourism industry.

“All of us want to reduce the harm caused by alcohol, particularly to young people,” Yousaf told MSPs at Holyrood today (18 April). “Scotland will only be successful if our businesses are successful.”

Kent said: “The Scotch whisky industry is also aligned with the Scottish government on reducing alcohol misuse. The sweeping proposals set out in last year’s consultation would have distracted from that goal and would have caused unnecessary damage to the Scottish economy and society.

“The first minister recognised the need to reconsider this during the SNP [Scottish National Party] leadership campaign and he has now followed through on his promise to withdraw the current proposals, and we look forward to working in partnership with government to promote moderation and reduce harmful consumption.”

Thompson added: “Commitments to take a fresh look at the alcohol and marketing proposals and reviewing business rates as part of looking at better support for business are further signs the Scottish government will be taking business more seriously and are extremely welcome. A wholesale business rates review, in particular, has been a long-standing ask of UK Hospitality Scotland, in order to bring the system into the modern age.

“Let’s not forget that the Deposit Return Scheme will return in March next year and the next 10 months need to be used extremely wisely and productively to make it fit-for-purpose. Meaningful engagement with hospitality businesses is essential to get this right and UK Hospitality Scotland is eager to work with the Scottish government on just that.”

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