Open letter to the First Minister and those looking to replace her states that pressing ahead with its introduction is ‘reckless’

Scottish Chambers chief executive Liz Cameron said that the roll-out of DRS must be delayed and redesigned in partnership with the business community

Business leaders have told Nicola Sturgeon that Scotland’s planned Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is “destined to fail” unless changes are made – and that pressing ahead with its introduction would be “reckless”.

The likes of CBI Scotland, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) joined to send an open letter to the outgoing First Minister, calling for the initiative to be delayed.

The letter – also sent to the three candidates standing to replace Sturgeon as SNP leader and first minister; Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan – insisted that businesses back the principle of the scheme and have spent “precious time and resources” ahead of its introduction in August.

But the group, which also includes the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) and the Scottish Wholesale Association, said the efforts that businesses and trade associations had made had “not been matched by ministers and will not deliver a DRS fit for purpose”.

They told the First Minister: “We share the objectives that DRS was set out to deliver, but in its current form, and without change, it is destined to fail”, adding: “We believe we need to delay, review and rethink DRS plans, and give businesses more time to prepare and allow them to sign up for a scheme in which they can have confidence will deliver and without taking on unacceptable liability.”

The groups insisted that Scotland’s economic recovery from Covid was “fragile” as they highlighted the impact of inflation and the “pressure hard-pressed businesses and consumers are under”.

Given these circumstances they told the First Minister: “Pressing on with DRS in its current form would be reckless.”

It comes as businesses in the hospitality and drinks sectors continue to voice their concerns about the proposed scheme – although the Scottish Government and environmental campaigners insist that DRS will reduce litter and boost recycling rates.

The letter, however, made clear that “businesses the length and breadth of Scotland’s communities” do not want DRS to be introduced in August as planned.

Both Forbes and Regan have suggested DRS should be paused, while Yousaf has said if he becomes first minister he would grant a year’s exemption for small businesses – with the minister responsible for bringing in the scheme, Lorna Slater, also saying she is considering this.

Liz Cameron, the director of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “It’s been clear to the business community for some time that operating this poorly designed scheme in its current form is impossible and is adding unnecessary cost pressures on businesses.

“We are not alone in voicing our concerns – all three candidates for the Scottish National Party leadership contest have expressed their reservations too.

“The roll-out of DRS must be delayed and redesigned in partnership with the business community, this is the only route now available to make it fit for purpose and restore business confidence in this scheme.”

FSB Scotland policy chair Andrew McRae added: “After years of crises and climbing costs, small businesses don’t need the cost and stress of a chaotic implementation of the DRS adding to their burdens.

“The ambitions of the scheme are laudable but its architects have failed to fully comprehend the implications of its roll-out for the myriad of smaller traders who will struggle to comply.

“It is essential that the Scottish Government stop and take stock of the significant concerns raised by the thousands of operators who want to do their bit but can’t make the scheme work in their business.”