Scottish recycling scheme ignites fresh constitutional spat with Westminster

Scotland’s first minister has accused the UK government of undermining devolution and disrespecting his country’s parliament after London demanded that Edinburgh exclude glass from its planned recycling scheme.

The dispute threatens to spark another constitutional fight between the administrations and jeopardises the viability of a scheme that the Scottish government insists is crucial to meeting its target of net zero emissions by 2045.

Humza Yousaf, the Scottish first minister, said the UK government spent most of Friday briefing the media on its decision to exclude glass from the scheme before it informed his administration late on Friday night.

“It’s their way or the highway, that’s not respecting devolution,” he said on Saturday.

One person who was familiar with the discussions in Westminster said it was “nonsense” to suggest that London disrespected devolution and insisted that the offer made to the Scottish government was “reasonable and pragmatic”. “Ultimately, we want a UK-wide solution which will not impose unnecessary burdens on business and reduce consumer choice.”

The glass dispute is the latest spat to erupt between London and Edinburgh after Rishi Sunak’s government in January blocked a Scottish law to make it easier for trans people to gain legal recognition of their gender, which the Scottish government is challenging in court.

Westminster has also consistently blocked the pro-independence Scottish National party’s bid for a rerun of a 2014 referendum in which Scots voted 55 per cent to 45 per cent to remain in the UK.

Scotland’s deposit return scheme, due to launch next March, seeks to improve recycling rates by charging consumers a 20p deposit for single-use drinks containers. They can claim back the money by returning empty containers via machines at supermarkets.

Edinburgh’s plan to roll out its scheme before other parts of the UK has sparked concern in London that it would create trade barriers between England and Scotland because consumers would be charged different prices for the same product on either side of the border.

The drinks industry has warned that having different bottling and labelling rules for Scotland would increase prices at a time when consumers and businesses are struggling with a cost of living crisis. They added that the scheme was also badly designed and impractical.

For the scheme to work, London would have to exclude it from legislation that ensures businesses face the same post-Brexit rules across Britain. Without an exclusion from the UK Internal Market Act, the scheme would be unviable as it would not apply to drinks bottled outside of Scotland, which make up the majority of sales in the country.

On Saturday, the UK government said it would give approval for the Scottish scheme to launch ahead of the rest of Britain, but sought changes to ensure that it “aligns with planned schemes for the rest of the UK”.

Ministers want the Scottish scheme to exclude glass so that it will be in line with one planned for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, due to launch in 2025. Westminster fears that the inclusion of glass in Scotland would create a permanent trade barrier with the rest of the UK.

Lorna Slater, Scotland’s circular economy minister whose Scottish Greens govern with Yousaf’s SNP in Holyrood, said on Saturday that London had shown “utter disregard for devolution” and that Edinburgh would now “have to look very seriously” at the viability of the scheme.

Articles You May Like

Bitcoin lender Ledn to roll out ETH, USDT interest accounts
Stocks making the biggest moves midday: Costco, Paramount, MillerKnoll, ChargePoint and more
The price of shoplifting is getting dangerously high
The lives politics doesn’t touch
After months of debate, Massachusetts primed to pass tax relief package