Thousands of small producers in Scotland don’t have the money and capacity to get ready in time for the deposit return scheme (DRS), a group of trade associations have warned.
The Scottish Wholesale Association, along with the Society of Independent Brewers, the Wine and Spirits Association, the Scotch Whisky Association and Scotland Food & Drink say that without urgent changes by the Scottish Government to give small producers a legal grace period, where small producers can opt into the scheme, many products will no longer be available in Scotland from 16 August and prices will substantially increase.
In an open letter to Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity Lorna Slater, the trade groups highlight the continued lack of clarity on how the scheme will work and the action that small producers need to take to prepare.
The Government’s own Gateway Review last year found that producers needed 12 to 24 months to prepare once “meaningful decisions” have been reached, yet these are still not known with only a few weeks left to register with the scheme administrator ahead of the legal deadline on 28 February.
The letter calls on Slater to introduce an 18-month grace period and that without action small businesses will be “disproportionately impacted by the scheme’s requirements”.
The minister recently agreed to reopen the regulations, opening a window of opportunity to agree and formalise the legal support small producers need while ensuring that DRS is launched on time with the vast majority of containers included.
In a joint statement, the trade associations said: “There are now only a few weeks left to save thousands of small producers that will be banned from selling bottles and cans in Scotland from August. They lack the finances and resources to meet the scheme’s requirements on time and need an 18-month legal grace period in the regulations and the option to opt in.
“Without this certainty it’s likely that consumers will lose out through reduced consumer choice and increased prices.”