South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has called on the Scottish Government to delay the introduction of the deposit return scheme for small producers.

The scheme, which is set to begin on 16 August, will introduce additional 20p charges on drinks in cans or bottles, with the deposit returned when they are brought back for recycling.

Producers, which will have a legal responsibility for the collection and management of drinks containers covered by the scheme, have until midnight on Tuesday to sign up.

But industry figures have warned it could impose potentially catastrophic costs on their businesses.

Speaking during a debate in the Scottish Parliament last week, Colin Smyth said: “There remain a number of issues with the scheme as it is currently proposed that need to be addressed.

“Let us be clear: those concerns are not just about big business lobbying. They are primarily the concerns of small businesses, in my region and others, that are simply trying to survive.

“That includes the small gin distillery in Galloway that I recently visited. It has one stock keeping unit with one bottle design, but it will now need to order twice as many bottles with every order because of minimum order levels, although it has simply nowhere to store them. In the same way, the local shop that I spoke to at the weekend has nowhere to store glass bottle returns.

“The small cider brewer that I visited in Dumfriesshire is close to the border and he made the valid point that consumers will have less choice, as his fellow brewers only a few miles away on the other side of the border will stop trading in Scotland.

“We want to work with the Government to make the changes that are needed so that the scheme that is delivered is successful and supports small businesses, because that would be a genuine jobs-first just transition.

“That is why Labour’s amendment asks the Government to, at the very least, consider further changes ahead of the introduction of the scheme, including a grace period of 18 months for small producers, during which their products would be treated as non-scheme articles.”

The local MSP continued: “We have failed to give those small businesses the information that they needed for a fair lead-in time, and they should not be punished for the incompetence of Circularity Scotland and others.

“We should consider an opt-in rather than an opt-out option for small retailers, and exemptions for low-volume producers.

“Labour’s amendment proposes common-sense changes that would address some of those concerns and allow a scheme to go ahead but be phased in to minimise the impact for small businesses. That is crucial.”

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